Clause 3 - Procurement

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 20 February 2024.

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Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I remind the Committee that with this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

The schedule.

New clause 1—Assessment of the impact of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement—environment—

“The Secretary of State must, within three years of Royal Assent to this Act, lay before Parliament assessments of the impact of the implementation of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement on—

(a) the Government’s plans to tackle climate change;

(b) the sustainable production of forest risk commodities, including palm oil, within UK supply chains,

(c) deforestation, and

(d) the Government’s environmental targets and environmental improvement plans established under the Environment Act 2021.”

New clause 2—Assessment of the impact of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement—employment and industry—

“The Secretary of State must, within three years of Royal Assent to this Act, lay before Parliament assessments of the impact of the implementation of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement on—

(a) manufacturing in the United Kingdom;

(b) the job market in the United Kingdom, including but not limited to gender inequality therein;

(c) the level of procurement by local authorities from businesses in their local authority area;

(d) the delivery of public services in the United Kingdom; and

(e) the Government’s commitments to the conventions of the International Labour Organisation.”

New clause 7—Impact assessment of implementation of the CPTPP Chapter on Government Procurement on developing country trading partners—

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of the passing of this Act and every 12 months thereafter, publish a report on the impact of the implementation of the Government Procurement chapter of the CPTPP on developing country trading partners of the United Kingdom.

(2) The impact assessment under subsection (1) must include an assessment of—

(a) social, environmental, and economic impact on countries with high levels of dependence on the UK market;

(b) steps that have been taken to consult with affected trading partners;

(c) proposed remediation measures for potential economic damage;

(d) how the experience and impact of implementation might inform negotiation of future trade agreements

I call Tan Dhesi, who was speaking when we were rudely interrupted by lunch.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

Thank you, Dr Huq. I know it was a great disappointment to you not to be here for the opening of my speech, but at least you can be comforted by hearing its conclusion. I will carry on where I left off this morning.

The absence of specific commitments to uphold International Labour Organisation conventions in the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership framework further exacerbates the risk to labour standards. Historically, the UK has been a proponent of international labour standards, advocating for decent work and fair wages across the globe. The CPTPP, as it stands, offers little assurance that those principles will be protected, let alone advanced, in the context of increased trade liberalisation.

In the light of those challenges, it is imperative for any engagement with the CPTPP to include robust safeguards to protect labour rights and ensure that trade does not come at the expense of workers’ welfare. That includes advocating for the integration of binding labour standards in trade agreements and ensuring that all member countries commit to upholding basic rights such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the elimination of forced and child labour.

The commitment to labour standards within the context of the CPTPP must reflect a balance between facilitating trade and protecting the rights of workers. Without explicit provisions to safeguard labour rights, there is a real risk that the benefits of trade will be unevenly distributed, with workers bearing the brunt of increased competition and deregulation. Ensuring that the CPTPP promotes fair and ethical trade practices is not just a matter of economic policy, but a reflection of our values as a society committed to fairness, equity and respect for human rights.

With the right amendments and considerations, the CPTPP can offer a pathway to achieving those goals. However, it requires a concerted effort to ensure that it enhances rather than undermines the economic and social fabric of our nation. It is about creating a future in which trade contributes not only to economic prosperity but to a fairer, greener and more equitable world. The requirement for amendments stems from a recognition that the current formulation of the CPTPP may not sufficiently safeguard against potential negative impacts on local industries, workers’ rights and environmental standards. Labour’s amendments signal our dedication to a trade policy that respects our commitments under international agreements, including those aimed at combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and upholding labour rights.

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

I rise to support new clauses 1, 2 and 7 and clause 3 stand part. In support of new clause 1, I will add some remarks to the excellent contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for City of Chester and for Cardiff North.

I seek further clarification from the Minister on the environmental impact of the CPTPP, to better understand how the Government intend to mitigate the detrimental environmental effects of the UK’s accession to the bloc. I understand that about 90% of the world’s oil palm trees are grown on a few islands in Malaysia and Indonesia, and just 1% of Malaysian palm oil smallholdings are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. That 1% constitutes approximately 40% of all palm oil plantations in Malaysia.

As I think all Members—even Government Members—recognise, deforestation is a major environmental crisis. It is now the second largest contributor to climate change globally, after burning fossil fuels. Nearly 90% of deforestation is attributed to agricultural expansion. The impact has not only affected our climate, but resulted in a sharp decline in native wildlife, as my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester set out.

Crucially, once ratified, the CPTPP will remove import tariffs on palm oil, irrespective of environmental credentials. As my hon. Friend noted, that risks contradicting commitments made by the Government under schedule 17 to the Environment Act 2021 to tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains. It is potentially irresponsible without the safeguards of due diligence secondary legislation, which is still due. In the other place, the Government said that they would bring forward that urgent secondary legislation some time in the spring of this year, but it remains somewhat vague. Any further clarification of the timeline from the Minister would be helpful.

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

I hope that my hon. Friend will also press the Minister on the wider context. My hon. Friend highlights the important point made by my hon. Friends the Members for City of Chester and for Cardiff North, which is that the Government seem to be neglecting their responsibilities. There appears to be a contradiction in Government policy between what we have heard today and other aspects of UK domestic legislation, such as the commitment to support the conference of the parties process. Will my hon. Friend press Ministers on that?

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

I certainly want to press the Minister further on those issues.

To be fair to Lord Johnson, he committed to a monitoring report after two years. He said:

“I would be surprised…if the evaluation and monitoring reports did not cover information on…environmental standards, reduction of the risk of deforestation and many other areas.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 16 January 2024; Vol. 835, c. 363.]

Although I take his commitment at face value, it would be sensible to put on the face of the Bill a requirement for such a report within three years, not least because we have not seen the secondary legislation, which is urgently needed.

Perhaps the Minister can give us additional clarity about what the review to which Lord Johnson committed would include. Will it include the way in which CPTPP membership affects the sustainable production of forest risk commodities, such as palm oil, in the UK supply chain? Will it specifically investigate the impact of CPTPP membership on deforestation? Those are key questions from stakeholder groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature and Chester zoo. It would be helpful to have additional clarity from the Minister about the review to which Lord Johnson committed and, crucially, about the secondary legislation that is due.

Has any further thought been given to the commodities that the secondary legislation will cover? The Government initially confirmed that they would look at six agricultural commodities, but now I understand that the secondary legislation will cover only non-dairy cattle, cocoa, palm oil and soy; coffee and rubber are missing. It would be helpful to know why.

I understand that the threshold for a company being required to comply is quite high: only businesses with a global annual turnover of £50 million will have to comply. It would be good to hear from the Minister why that particular figure has been set.

In the context of new clause 1, I want to raise some concerns from Pesticide Action Network UK. The hon. Member for Totnes, who sadly is not in his place, was keen to mention the Trade and Agriculture Commission report, in which Professor Bartels and his colleagues outlined their concern that more goods using pesticides that are not currently allowed in the UK will be imported as a result of CPTPP. Indeed, PAN UK has made clear its belief that membership of CPTPP is likely to increase food imports from CPTPP member countries, all of which have weaker pesticide standards than the UK’s. There are genuine concerns that there will not be sufficient controls on food imports to the UK, and consequently that weaker pesticide standards will develop here. I am sure that the Minister recognises that that will worry many people.

New clause 7 is probing in nature. The Minister will be aware of concerns in Africa among our friends in Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast about possible tariff reductions on bananas being exported to the UK from Mexico and Peru. As a result of our membership of CPTPP, Ministers conceded tariff reductions on bananas from those two countries into the UK market. Afruibana, the pan-African association of banana producers and exporters, raised a series of concerns about the impact of those tariff reductions, particularly the way in which they set a potential precedent for further tariff reductions if countries such as Ecuador and Costa Rica join CPTPP. That could have a big impact on the opportunities for African exporters to continue to sell bananas to the UK. Bearing in mind that Ghana is a close ally of the UK, and that some 80,000 people work in the banana supply chain in Ghana, that does not seem to me to be an unreasonable concern to air in Committee so that we can get some assurances or answers from the Minister.

At this stage, I do not intend to seek a Division on new clauses 2 and 7, but unless the Minister is particularly convincing I will be tempted to divide the Committee on new clause 1.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) 2:15, 20 February 2024

I will try to be as convincing as possible. I thank the hon. Members for Slough and for City of Chester for tabling new clauses 1, 2 and 7, which would necessitate further assessments and reviews across various areas related to our accession to CPTPP. However, let me deal first, in a little more detail, with the point of order from the hon. Member for Harrow West, which related to the Eurotunnel case, because I think it needs to be clarified.

The UK was subject to a contractual dispute regarding the specific terms of a concession agreement—this was under the last Labour Government—under a specific treaty between France and the UK on the construction and operation of a channel link. This contractual dispute is different from more traditional ISDS claims, such as the ones that can potentially be brought under CPTPP, which are open to the more general category of investors under an investment treaty. The UK has investment agreements containing ISDS provisions with about 90 trading partners. I reiterate that it has never been subject to a successful claim under these agreements.

However, I note the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for talking about ISDS. He has been a Member for some 27 years, so I thought I would go back and see where his enthusiasm for speaking about this came from. He has spoken about ISDS six times in his 27 years, but the first mention of his concern about ISDS came on 18 June 2020. It took him some 23 years here to first voice his concern about this issue, so I am not entirely sure about his enthusiasm for raising it.

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

I ask the hon. Gentleman to let me finish, because it does not end there. He was Trade Minister for two years, between 2007 and 2009. I thought that when he was Trade Minister he might have said something about ISDS, which he is so passionately against. He actually had the opportunity to do something about it then, but he did not mention ISDS in that time. Perhaps he can explain his silence for some 23 years on this issue about which he feels so passionately.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for finally giving us some answers about the Eurotunnel tribunal case and about ISDS in that context. One of the other questions I asked him about ISDS and, particularly in the context of new clause 1, about its potential impact on the environment was why he supports ISDS in the context of CPTPP but not in the context of negotiations with Canada over a bilateral free trade agreement. He has yet to give an answer to that question. Perhaps he can do so now.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but we have a debate on ISDS coming up under new clause 5, so I will be happy to talk further about it then. We are also having a debate on where CPTPP interacts with other trade agreements, but quite often, if a different trade agreement has ISDS provisions, it may or may not be desirable to include ISDS provisions in a further trade agreement. It would be worth looking at how ISDS works in each of the trade agreements.

The Government have demonstrated that we take parliamentary scrutiny of our FTA agenda seriously. A full impact assessment for the UK’s accession to CPTPP was published at signature in July 2023, alongside the accession protocol text and a draft explanatory memorandum. That included assessments of the potential economic impact on UK GDP and, indeed, the environmental impacts. As has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes, the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission was commissioned to scrutinise the accession protocol and to produce a report on whether the measures are consistent with the maintenance of UK statutory protections in relation to animal and plant health and life, animal welfare and the environment. The TAC concluded in its advice published on 7 December 2023 that

“CPTPP does not require the UK to change its levels of statutory protection in relation to (a) animal or plant life or health, (b) animal welfare, or (c) environmental protection” and even that it

“strengthens the UK’s ability to maintain its levels of statutory environmental protection.”

I think the hon. Member for Slough claimed that farmers were against it or are sceptical. I can give him a quote because , on this occasion at least, the president of the National Farmers Union, Minette Batters, was supportive of CPTPP, saying that the

“government continues to maintain its commitment to our food safety standards.”

She further stated that the UK achieved a

“balanced outcome, particularly with respect to managing market access in our most vulnerable sectors.”

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

To clarify, I did not say that farmers are against CPTPP, just as the Labour party is not against the CPTPP agreement. However, there were significant concerns around seeds, plants and the wider agricultural industry. It is those concerns that we are bringing to the table. It is up to the Minister to address those concerns.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but the NFU is not shy in coming forward to criticise free trade agreements from time to time—I think the NFU would agree with that. Here the NFU has given a clear endorsement of CPTPP, partly because it offers the opportunity for UK agriculture to sell their fantastic products abroad. That is part of the point of doing this: so that UK agriculture can access these fast-growing markets around the Asia-Pacific and the Pacific rim and sell high-quality British produce to those markets. That is why the support overall from the farming community is there for the UK joining CPTPP.

Looking to the future, the Government intend to produce a biennial monitoring report and publish a comprehensive ex post evaluation for the agreement within five years of the UK’s accession. I confirm to the hon. Member for City of Chester that the evaluation will include an assessment of the environmental impact. An inclusive and participatory process will be at the heart of the evaluation, providing structured opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders to share their views and provide evidence. However, those impacts cannot be disaggregated by individual chapters. That goes to the heart of many of the Opposition’s amendments. They want to have an impact assessment for different factors within CPTPP, but the Government already have a firm process in place to consider the agreement, its impact and its effects as a whole. That is the right thing for us to do. Additional impact assessments of the type being proposed would cost the taxpayer without showing the effects of the agreement as a whole.

On new clause 1 on deforestation and the environment, I can provide assurance that the UK will continue to uphold our very high environmental standards in all our trade agreements. CPTPP does not affect the UK’s ability to take social value or environmental considerations into account in procurements where they are relevant and do not discriminate. The procurement chapter of CPTPP includes a provision also found in the World Trade Organisation agreement on Government procurement, the GPA, and in our other free trade agreements that exempts measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, understood to include environmental measures as well.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

The Minister made the point that the NFU supports the agreement and that its president Minette Batters said that joining the CPTPP provides “some good opportunities”. However, she also said:

“It is an absolute red line for us that food produced using practices that are illegal here—for instance, the use of hormones in beef and pork production and chemical washes for carcases—should not be allowed on our market”,

and that

“domestic policies are aimed at improving the competitiveness of British farming”— that is what I said in my speech this morning—

“and strengthening our domestic food security.”

How can the Minister ensure that that happens without the proper impact assessments? I have no idea, nor, it seems, does the NFU.

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

The impact assessment was published last July. We have been absolutely clear, right the way through since 2016 with the inception of the Department for International Trade, that nothing in free trade agreements has an impact on our right to regulate domestically and our domestic food and animal welfare standards, which must also apply to imported products. We have been through this many times in different Trade Bills and different free trade agreements. Each time, I have to remind hon. Members that nothing in an FTA changes our domestic right to regulate.

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

The Minister has answered the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff North on many occasions when I have raised this question. The Secretary of State did so the other day, on Second Reading. The UK Government reserve the right to maintain the ban on the importation of products that do not meet our standards such as hormone-treated beef, ractopamine-treated pork and chlorine-washed poultry. The Secretary of State was clear at the end of January that that ban remains in place and the Minister has confirmed that. The UK Government are standing firm and that should reassure the Opposition and the NFU that we will uphold our animal welfare standards.

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

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent intervention. His point goes back to the pause in the Canada negotiation. If one wants to understand the seriousness with which the UK Government treat those obligations and our domestic standards, that was one of the reasons for pausing the Canada negotiation. Many Opposition Members never agreed with being part of the agreement in the first place precisely because Canada was becoming a demandeur, particularly when it came to things such as hormone-treated beef. That was one of the reasons for pausing that negotiation.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

The Minister is being generous with his time. We had a similar fanfare when the Australia trade deal was announced. However, the former Environment Secretary no less, George Eustice, said that Britain gave away too much for too little in return in the Australia deal negotiations. That is why we have such protestations and complaints from various farmers and farming unions. What protections have Ministers put in place to ensure that farmers and other agricultural producers are better protected in the CPTPP agreement?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Party Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) 2:30, 20 February 2024

If I may say so, I think that is a slight mischaracterisation of the former Environment Secretary’s critique of the Australia and New Zealand free trade agreement. I was in the main Chamber when this was debated in, I think, the early part of 2023. I think his critique was directed more at the tariff reduction and the tariff schedule than any reference to standards on animal welfare and food production. My impression was that, in his view, the tariff reduction was too rapid on Australian produce coming in.

I will say to the hon. Member for Slough that CPTPP also includes an extensive environment chapter, which recognises parties’ sovereign right to establish their own levels of domestic environment protection and priorities. This includes measures in the pursuit of reaching net zero and other environmental goals. The parties also affirm their commitment to implement multilateral environment agreements to which they are party. All the CPTPP members are signatories to the Paris agreement, as well as multilateral environment agreements covering wider environmental areas such as biodiversity, ozone-layer protection and pollution. The parties further recognise the importance of trade in environmental goods and services in the environment chapter. Parties are committed to endeavour to address any barriers to trade raised in this context. For example, under the CPTPP there will be no tariffs on UK exports of new electric vehicles and wind turbine towers, which support the UK and the CPTPP parties’ transition to low-carbon economies.

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

I will endeavour to be brief and to the point. Given his reference to all the parties being signatories to the Paris agreement, I will gently bring the Minister back to the question of ISDS, on which I know he is always enthusiastic to answer questions. Can he be absolutely clear today with the Committee that no ISDS claim is likely to be successful where environmental considerations have been a factor in a Government taking a particular decision?

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

The hon. Gentleman invites me to go down a hypothetical road where possible court cases may or may not be successful. I reiterate that the UK has never lost an ISDS case, and CPTPP does not prevent a domestic right to regulate, so I am confident in our position on that. I do not think speculating on future court cases would be appropriate for any of us in this Committee Room.

We remain committed to our environmental and sustainability goals, including forest protection. We will continue to work domestically and with partners internationally to pursue our ambitions for nature, climate and sustainable development, including in CPTPP and multilateral fora such as the WTO, climate and biodiversity COPs—I was proud to represent the UK at COP26 as an environment and climate Minister—and through the forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue. The hon. Member for City of Chester asked specifically about this, as did the hon. Member for Cardiff North. I can answer that in spring of this year, the Government will be laying our forest risk commodities legislation under the Environment Act. It will make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use key forest risk commodities produced on land occupied or used illegally.

The Government have confirmed that palm oil products would be included under the regulated commodities. Do not just judge us on our words; judge us on our deeds. It is encouraging that 86% of UK imports of palm oil were certified as sustainable in 2022. That is up from 16% in 2010 under the last Labour Government, when the hon. Member for Harrow West was the Minister for International Development. He might have had more concern with these issues than perhaps he showed at the time; he is saying that he does now. Deforestation related to palm oil in Malaysia has fallen by 60% since 2012, in the latest available figures, which were in 2018. We would like to see more recent figures, but none the less we are seeing a really encouraging trend. The UK in particular has gone from 16% under the last Labour Government to 86% being certified as sustainable. We will keep working with countries such as Malaysia, which is a party to CPTPP, to build on that work.

The CPTPP environment chapter strengthens co-operation on addressing deforestation and forest degradation and allows parties to co-operate through the FTA’s dedicated environment committee. We have also agreed a joint statement with Malaysia setting out our shared commitment to work together to promote the sustainable production of commodities and to protect forests. Moreover, the UK and Malaysia are signatories to the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use, and we are committed to halting and reversing deforestation by 2030. I refer once again to the report of the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission, which concluded that

“it is unlikely that CPTPP will lead to an increase in palm oil being grown on deforested land.”

I remind Opposition Members that they are continually having to tell us that they are in favour of joining CPTPP, yet at every single moment available they make speeches against the UK joining it. The hon. Member for Cardiff North said that it “makes a mockery” of the UK's environment commitments. If she thinks that it makes a mockery of our commitments, why on earth is she in favour of it? I welcome her being in favour and voting for or not voting against it on Second Reading, but if she thinks that something is making a mockery of this country, why on earth is she in favour of it? Perhaps she can explain that dichotomy.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

I thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity to explain. I am saying that as it stands, it is making a mockery of environmental commitments that were agreed at COP26 in Glasgow. Without new clause 1, there is no environmental climate impact assessment. The sustainability of this puts into question all our trade agreements in CPTPP. That is why the impact assessments are so important and why the Government should support the new clauses and vote for them.

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

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, but, as I have already made clear regarding new clauses and previous amendments, we already have a comprehensive impact assessment process in place. I confirmed earlier in my speech that the environment will be part of that. Additional subject impact assessments would be duplicative, unnecessary and expensive, and it might prevent the good operation of the UK’s accession to CPTPP.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

Actually, it might be the reverse: spending money on the impact assessments, which would be a relatively small amount, would save money in terms of our marketability, trade and business right across the UK and internationally.

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

I accept the hon. Lady’s intervention but, as I have pointed out, the impact assessment is already being made as part of the biennial monitoring and the comprehensive evaluation in that period. It is in the UK’s overall impact assessment, which, as I have already outlined, will of course include the environment.

I will turn to the issue of pesticides, which was raised. The UK has not lowered its standards to accede to CPTPP. All food and drink products imported to the UK, irrespective of the purpose for which they will be used, must comply with our import requirements and regulatory standards for food safety. That point has been made continually in trade debates for the last eight years, and that includes the maximum residue levels of pesticides. As the Trade and Agriculture Commission report confirms, all food and drink products imported to the UK must still meet our existing import requirements. A range of Government Departments, agencies and bodies continue to ensure that standards are met, including the Food Standards Agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Health and Safety Executive. There is a comprehensive Government programme of monitoring pesticide residues in food to determine whether food available to UK consumers complies with the statutory residue levels and is safe. The results of the monitoring are published following consideration by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs expert committee on pesticide residues in food.

On new clause 2, on employment and industry, the Government want UK businesses to be successful in competing for public contracts, both in the UK and in other countries around the world, and UK businesses can and do—of course—achieve success in winning domestic contracts. The reciprocal guaranteeing of market access through CPTPP means treating each other’s suppliers in the same way that we treat domestic suppliers. The UK’s international commitments have never affected our ability to deliver public services effectively, and encouraging greater competition in public sector procurement can and does drive down prices for the taxpayer and improve value for money for the UK public sector.

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

The Minister is very confident in his marshalling of evidence this afternoon. The Opposition remain deeply sceptical; would he like to give us—and the public—a reassurance, regarding the NHS and other key public services, that the new agreement will not lead to foreign providers undermining standards of care and replacing domestic or indeed NHS suppliers?

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

Well, absolutely. We have given that commitment time and again, regarding not just this trade agreement, but previous trade agreements and our overall commitments to the NHS and to public sector procurement.

On the question of buying British, which I think the hon. Member for Harrow West raised, the UK Government’s policy, as reflected in our current international obligations and domestic law, is that Government procurement should be non-discriminatory, as this provides the best value for money for the taxpayer. Public sector contracting authorities across the UK, including in devolved Administrations, will continue to comply with the UK’s international commitments. Fair and open competition between suppliers, including those of our trade partners, delivers the best value for money for UK taxpayers.

I think that the hon. Member for Harrow West asked about the general review, which is different from the UK Government’s review. CPTPP was, of course, conceived as a living agreement designed to evolve to maintain its high standards, and the CPTPP text states that there should be a general review of the agreement at least every five years. The first general review will begin in 2024, and the hon. Gentleman could even make a submission to that general review. It closes tomorrow, so perhaps he may be able to put forward his submission just in time to get it in. I am sure that my officials will be waiting with great trepidation about what he may have to say, including perhaps on some of his favourite recent topics, such as ISDS.

On new clause 7, Members have raised an important point regarding the impacts of trade agreements on developing countries. We know that free trade agreements have the potential to contribute to preference erosion. When negotiating trade agreements, the Government analyse the impacts of preference erosion as part of a balanced approach to the negotiations. The impact assessment for CPTPP estimated a minimal impact of the UK’s accession on the GDP of a selection of neighbouring countries and least-developed countries.

The UK continues to monitor the third-party impacts of trade policy, and will continue to promote trade with developing countries through our new developing countries trading scheme—the DCTS—which was launched last summer, and economic partnership agreements, or EPAs. Our trade-related technical assistance, funded by our official development assistance—or ODA—helps developing countries to take advantage of trading opportunities.

The Government recognise the need to closely consider potential impacts on developing countries as we continue to evolve our trade policies and take forward FTA negotiations. We continue to balance the domestic interests of UK consumers and businesses with delivering on our FTA agenda, while maintaining a strong commitment to supporting developing countries and reducing poverty through trade.

To conclude, new clauses 1, 2 and 7 cover important topics such as labour, the environment and developing countries, but the impacts cannot be disaggregated by individual chapters. Additional impact assessments of the type being proposed would be duplicative of the overall assessment of the agreement, to which the Government are already committed. I therefore ask the hon. Members not to press new clauses 1, 2 and 7.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.