Trade Bill

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Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Grand Committee - (29 Sep 2020)
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I wish to address Amendment 6, referred to my noble friend Lord Fox, and to support Amendment 3, spoken to by my noble friend Lady Birt and to which she has put her name. In so doing, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, for supporting in principle the idea that we are asking the Government to outline how they will be supporting British business to take advantage of the GPA agreement of which we are now a member in our own right as agreed by the other members. I reassure her that this Bill will never be long enough to address all the fears that me and my colleagues may have of this Government, but the amendment is practical, sensible and simply asks the Government to be clear. We will not rely on the Minister’s winding-up speech in this short debate in Grand Committee; rather, as my noble friend Lord Fox has indicated, we are asking for a proper report from the Government setting out how they will support our businesses.

We want the UK to prosper and our businesses to benefit from any new opportunities while also not being burdened if trading relations with our biggest market in Europe are harder. Procurement is one area where our businesses can seek contracting opportunities across all the GPA members, but there are practical barriers to those, whether it is language, knowledge of that country’s government procurement system, having local partners or legal protections. These are just some of the factors among many and it is a complex area in which to do business.

According to the OECD, taxpayers’ money that is spent by the Government on goods, services and infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools accounts for over 13% of gross domestic product, so there is a huge market. I can reference Amendment 51 in a later group, but let me refer to the NHS here at home. My noble friend Lord Fox gave the figure of £67 billion of UK procurement. NHS England spends around £27 billion on goods and services every year. Ward consumables are delivered through the American-founded and German-owned DHL. Mental health beds are operated by American companies providing about 13% of in-patient beds in England. In some areas, the proportion of US-owned mental healthcare facilities is much higher. In Manchester, patients have a 50:50 chance of being admitted to a privately owned hospital and a one in four chance of that bed being provided by an American-owned company. Patients think that the NHS is purely British from beginning to end, but services are being provided by an American-owned company. There is thus no question about the need for the British Government to provide more support for British companies to take up opportunities abroad. The Government strategy is for the NHS supply chain to be expanded and to make it easier for companies around the world both to bid for and to secure NHS services within this country. Of course, they will assist British businesses in doing the same but—I am not necessarily critical of this—the Government operate a level playing field.

The US sees this market as a valuable one because it is colossal, so it is no surprise that it has within its negotiating mandate with the United Kingdom to ease barriers so that its companies can benefit from greater market access to provide over £30 billion-worth of basics and consumables in addition to £7 billion in deals for capital contracts. It has been interesting to note that procurement opportunities within the UK have expanded and that that is positive. It opens up the UK to more international co-operation, but as my noble friend Lady Birt, has said, we want to see greater support for British businesses to enable them to take up some of these opportunities too.

It is interesting to note that the European Union has emphasised that the final market access offer presented by the UK for membership of the GPA was

“commercially credible and viable, replicating the UK’s current coverage under the EU schedule with minor technical adjustments.”

The EU was a fairly enthusiastic supporter of the UK application, and why would it not be? It replicates the same basis as it has at the moment.

I note that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, asked the Minister about the thresholds. She referred to $130,000 being the threshold. That is the threshold of every single GPA member other than Japan and Aruba, which have it set at $100,000. Can the Minister say, if we are to have opportunities in our own right, why that threshold is the same as what we had within the European Union?

The reason the WTO and the EU were enthusiastic about replicating what we have at the moment is because the WTO said when it approved our GPA membership in our own right

“It was underlined that the United Kingdom accounts for over a quarter of the EU’s total procurements covered by the GPA and that, when taking into account just central government entities, the UK accounts for nearly half of the EU’s covered procurements.”


There is no doubt that the EU is happy because it has retained market access to nearly half of all of that covered within the EU.

We were led to believe that the Government would negotiate nothing without using British leverage to get a better deal for Britain. Can the Minister explain what we have done with that? The Government did not include procurement in their mandate for a future relationship with the EU, while the EU’s mandate did. It wanted to go beyond the GPA, including utilities and supplementing the GPA with additional areas of coverage which would have opened up the European market for British businesses under procurement. But, no, the Government wish to go on the GPA model, which means that the European Union has in effect preferential access to UK procurement where we have not sought to open up some of the barriers to the European market.

I have a final question to ask the Minister regarding what is happening here at home. The 1998 devolution settlement means that public procurement is an area of responsibility for devolved government in Scotland and Wales. The Government have indicated that they wish to seek divergence in our current approach to procurement. How would this be seen in the devolved areas? I know this as a former constituency Member in the Scottish borders who fought many campaigns on the issue of being against centralisation and the Government centralising procurement policy and bundling up contracts, which makes it harder for smaller, local businesses, as my noble friend Lady Birt has indicated. The White Paper states

“For both goods and services, these provisions will be supplemented by the non-discrimination principle. For goods, non-discrimination will apply within certain excluded areas such as procurement.”


Paragraph 145 goes on to say that the Government are considering

“whether and to what extent it should apply to public procurement, in particular for above-threshold procurements.”

That means that, in effect, the UK Government for England can decide what the threshold levels and the policies for procurement would be for the devolved Administrations. No reference is made to procurement in the Bill, so can the Minister clarify the position on procurement within the internal market?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade (Lord Grimstone of Boscobel) (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak for only the second time in a debate and my first time in Committee, but as with my maiden speech, it is on matters of great importance to the businesses and consumers of the United Kingdom as we prepare to take our first steps as an independent trading nation for the first time in over half a century. I look forward to working with your Lordships to bring this Bill on to the statute book. I listened to the vast experience of Members of the House when we debated the Bill at Second Reading, an experience which I have already heard repeated in this Committee, and I know that noble Lords will take great care to scrutinise the provisions of the Bill thoroughly.

As I said at Second Reading, the intention of the Bill is to ensure continuity and certainty for the UK and our trading partners once the transition period ends. It will establish an independent body to protect UK producers from injury caused by unfair trading practices. It will enable better use of data to facilitate and improve trade. It will also ensure—the subject of this group of amendments—that UK businesses continue to have access to £1.3 trillion a year of government procurement contracts globally through our independent membership of the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement, or GPA. What the Bill will not do is lower our standards in any area.

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Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, I am sitting here looking at the small surface wipes, which profess to kill 99.9% of all viruses. In his speech, the Minister used broadly the same terms twice, and substantially the same terms once, when describing the follow-on GPA agreement. That is equivalent to the 0.1%, which is important these days. Could the Minister tell us what is not the same, because “broadly” and “substantially” is not “identical”? Therefore, there is a difference. In what areas are we seeing variation?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for listening so intently to my speech to make those calculations. It is of great benefit to me that he did so. The changes are technical. I do not have them in front of me, although I know what they are. However, if I may, I shall write to the noble Lord and recount them for him.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Minister and other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, in particular my noble friends Lord Hain, Lord Hendy and Lady Blower for their contributions on Amendment 5, my noble friend Lord Rooker on Amendment 100, and my noble friend Lord Judd for his childhood memories from the age of 13 about maintaining standards.

We are about trying to avoid any possibility of lowering standards or racing to the bottom. Maintaining current standards and including provisions in current EU law in the crossover to post-EU exit would be the greatest reassurance that we could all receive about the Government’s intentions. I am not in any way doubting the Minister’s well-intentioned summary of his intention and the Government’s provisions. However, if it is not carried over, it leaves the possibility of escaping from one or other provision at some time in future.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, remembers Jacques Delors coming to the TUC and talking about the EU’s intentions to provide standards across the whole of the continent. At the time, part of the TUC felt conflicted with those who believed that collective bargaining was the only way forward. A long time has passed since then, and we recognise the importance of legislation in supporting workers and standards, and other provisions that are subject to public procurement.

Therefore, there is no clear-cut decision to be made on these amendments, and the affirmative process brings things into the open. It is not just about the minimum decisions about changing departments’ names; it is about matters, from that, right the way through the procurement process that can be brought out into the open and debated in both Houses as and when it is necessary. It provides the Government with the opportunity to avoid the charge that they are not subjecting themselves to proper scrutiny. That said, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw these amendments, but we may well return to this at a future stage of the Bill.

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Finally, it was helpful to receive both a grammar lesson from the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and an insight into the mind of a Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. On this, I am on the side of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and the Law Society of Scotland. I hope the noble Lord does not mind, but I will stick with the Scottish lawyers on this one. The argument that was made was that necessity is a stronger test, whereas “appropriate” can be used and does not necessarily mean that other non-legislative remedies can be sought by the Government. Therefore, the clarity that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has asked for from the Minister would be helpful. It is necessary for the Minister to clarify how the Government define “appropriate”.
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, before I start, I acknowledge the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about the wide-ranging nature of modern FTAs. We will no doubt return to that point in our future debate.

On Amendments 7, 9, 10 and 103, I shall turn first to Amendment 9, which stipulates that Clause 2 would apply only to agreements that the EU has ratified with third countries, as opposed to simply having signed them. Unfortunately, this amendment would mean that important agreements with key strategic partners would be excluded from the scope of the clause and so, once signed, would be left without an implementing power. My noble friend Lord Lansley has picked up this point in relation to Canada. This would include an agreement with Canada, because CETA has not been fully ratified by each member state of the EU, despite being in effect for some time now. We have heard from businesses large and small that providing continuity in this particular trading relationship is essential; unfortunately, this amendment would threaten these vital trade flows and commercial relationships.

I also draw your Lordships’ attention to the fact that a number of international development-focused agreements between the EU and third countries have not been fully ratified, despite being in force for some time. One example is the economic partnership agreement with the CARIFORUM states. Developing countries are sometimes unable to ratify agreements in full before entry into effect. Sometimes this is for procedural reasons; sometimes it is due to issues of domestic governance. Whatever the reason, this amendment would deny the UK’s trade for development assistance to these countries, simply because the predecessor trade agreement was not fully ratified.

I reassure my noble friend Lady McIntosh that the agreements that this amendment seeks to exclude have been subject to comprehensive EU scrutiny processes at mandate, negotiation and concluding stages. We were fully involved in those processes. As noble Lords are no doubt aware, the delay to ratification relates to individual country or state processes, as opposed to those carried out at the level of the European Union.

On Amendment 10, just as the previous amendment sought to exclude a number of key trading partners from the scope of the Bill, this amendment seeks to bring a number of new FTA partners into scope, including the USA, Australia and New Zealand. As I explained to the House at Second Reading, this Bill is a vehicle for the implementation of continuity agreements only. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Noakes for picking up this point. Scrutiny and implementation of new free trade agreements is an important conversation but one that must be had separately from the Bill. No doubt we will be having that conversation at various points in the future.

However, I recognise that many colleagues would like some indication of and clarity about how this process will work. As noble Lords are aware, when negotiating new free trade agreements we have gone above and beyond the baseline CRaG process, providing extensive information to Parliament, including publishing our objectives and economic scoping assessments prior to the start of talks. We also hold regular open briefings for MPs and Peers throughout the negotiations. We will continue to keep Parliament updated on negotiations as they progress, including close engagement with the International Trade Committee in the House of Commons and the international agreements committee in the House of Lords. I give full recognition to the valuable work of these committees.

At the end of negotiations, we will produce an impact assessment of the final treaty prior to it being laid before Parliament for scrutiny under CRaG, alongside an Explanatory Memorandum. In addition, we will seek to allow time between finalising a new FTA and laying it before Parliament under the CRaG procedure, so that the relevant scrutiny committees in Parliament may produce an independent report on the agreement.

I am sure we will return later in Committee to the whole question of scrutiny and the important role of Parliament. I hope that the noble Lords, Lord Purvis, Lord Blunkett and Lord Haskel, and my noble friend Lord Lansley will not feel short-changed if I keep some of my power dry until that later debate.

My noble friend Lord Lansley asked about legislation for implementing future free trade agreements. As we have said on a number of occasions before, the Government will bring forward specific implementing legislation—the primary legislation necessary—for new free trade agreements, providing Parliament with plenty of opportunities to scrutinise and vote on these agreements. I hope that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. I look forward, no doubt, to our debating the matters that we have debated on this Bill on future Bills which would implement future free trade agreements.

In a nutshell, I do not believe that the established and well-functioning process for scrutinising continuity agreements needs to be changed at this point. This House has held three debates covering six continuity agreements, following reports published by the European Union Committee. As your Lordships will be aware, none of these debates has resulted in a Motion to Regret. This process has been fair, open and, most importantly, proportionate to the nature of the continuity agreements.

On Amendment 7, like other noble Lords I enjoyed the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, parsing the meaning of “appropriate” and “necessary”, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh has given us the benefit of her Scottish expertise on this matter. I can speak quite plainly and say that all regulations made under the Clause 2 power to implement international trade agreements will be necessary. The Clause 2 power is needed to implement legislative obligations arising from trade continuity agreements into our domestic statute. Our expectation is that this power will be mainly used for obligations relating to procurement or recognition of product conformity assessments. To clarify, tariff-related provisions will be implemented using powers in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act.

Without the ability to make such changes, we would be at risk of breaching our international obligations. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that this does not happen. However, this proposed amendment could prevent that by constraining the vires or scope of the regulations that can be made under Clause 2, in particular when using the concurrent powers to legislate in areas of devolved competence. We will be debating that topic later in Committee.

I can assure the House that, despite the suspicions that some noble Lords have, the powers in this Bill will only be used in a proportionate way and that consultation with all stakeholders is a fundamental part of our approach and will remain so going forward.

On Amendment 103, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his amendment. However, I fear I may be beginning to sound like a broken record, as I am going to say yet again that this is a continuity Bill. The Government have no desire to seek sweeping powers to be able to use this Bill to implement all our future free trade agreements, with the likes of the US, Australia and New Zealand. I dare say that, if we had tried to do that, our knuckles would have been very sharply rapped by this House.

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Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the assurances, although I note his powder is as yet dry in relation to some of the subjects we will discuss later.

If I may make a point about what I am looking for from my noble friend, it is very clear that if future trade agreements—not continuity agreements—give rise to a requirement for changes in domestic legislation that are of significance, that must be achieved by bespoke primary legislation. I am sure that is what he intended by what he said. That is why, I am afraid, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, said about Amendments 10 and 103 is wrong, because they would, in effect, create a super-affirmative procedure for the implementation into domestic legislation of future trade agreements. We do not want that. We want it to be done by primary legislation because then it is capable of being amended.

We have to keep in mind, as we go through this, that there is a clear difference: ratification of a trade agreement is not the same as changing our domestic law, as my noble friend just said. Therefore, the CRaG process does not change UK law; what it does is enable the Government to ratify, or not to ratify, a trade agreement or an agreement into which it has entered. That is the distinction that we have to continuously keep in mind: the CRaG process is not changing UK law; it is determining on what basis we have agreed with another country. If we then need to change our law, we must do it ourselves, and Parliament will have the ability to decide in what terms we do so.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lord Lansley for giving me the chance to clarify my comments. We have already said, and I am happy to say again, that we will bring forward primary legislation as necessary for future FTAs with new trade partners. As my noble friend quite appropriately spotted, we could not implement those free trade agreements without bringing forward primary legislation. The CRaG process does not do that—it ratifies the treaty but cannot, in itself, alter domestic legislation.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister. He said two things, one with regard to the scope of this Bill. We have heard Ministers many times state their desire for this Bill to be very limited in scope and look only at continuity of trade. The Government have brought amendments to this Bill to widen the scope quite significantly, for example on data sharing. The debates we will be having fall squarely within the spirit of what the Government have done to open up the scope.

We will be returning to this valid debate area, but I want to ask the Minister a specific question. I listened carefully to what he said. In objecting to some of the amendments, he referred to the fact that some of the agreements did not require scrutiny within this Parliament because, he said, they had already undergone the EU scrutiny process, mandate, negotiation and ratification stages. That was by the European Parliament, where British MEPs sat and were able to take part. For new agreements, we will have no equivalent. To be clear, is the Government’s position that the EU scrutiny process—when it comes to the agreements that have been approved by the European Union and gone through it but not yet been put into domestic legislation—is equivalent to the CRaG process the Government are asking to use going forward?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for his comments. The continuity agreements were those that were in force before 1 January or had been agreed to by the EU, even if not fully ratified, before then. We were fully participating members of the European Union then. The committees of this House and the other place that scrutinise European legislation—the noble Lord knows much more about that than I do, being a new boy—scrutinised these agreements and did that satisfactorily.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank everybody who has spoken in this debate. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I have felt optimistic at some moments and deeply depressed at others. I am going to end up being optimistic because I am that sort of chap. I will take the good that I have heard from my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lord Haskel, in particular. I was grateful on this occasion not to be attacked by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. It is always a good day when that happens—I am only joking.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made some good points about keeping in mind the difference between ratification and implementation as we go forward. He is right to stress that point and I am sure we will come back to it. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised a number of questions that had a bearing on that. I started to get slightly worried about where he was heading —for example, on the issue about the implementation of agreements made under the royal prerogative being ratified under the CRaG arrangements. This is an obvious consequence of where we stand with our current procedures. It leaves the question open as to why we need primary legislation. If the Minister is saying that all future deals are to be made in relation to existing standards that will never be lowered, in view of not changing or disadvantaging our labour and environmental standards and our future arrangements on climate change—on the agenda later today—what is this primary legislation of which he speaks? This is something we will need to come back to and I will be thinking about it.

Finally, I want to pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which I thought was a good one. Can I join her in asking the Minister whether he could write to us about it? Paragraphs 44 and 45 of the Explanatory Notes refer to varieties of trade agreements and the Minister did not deal with that in his response to the noble Baroness. The types of agreement within the definition of “international trade agreements” include memorandums of understanding and he will know that this matter has been raised with him by the International Agreements Committee of your Lordships’ House. It is a topical point and I would be grateful if he could give us some further information when he is able to do so. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I remain be-seated to beseech the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and others to support Amendment 45 in this group. I shall try to address some of her specific points about that amendment a bit later.

It was very helpful that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, was able to take part in the debate on this group, and it is a pleasure to follow him. What he outlined very clearly, in many respects adding to what my noble friends Lady Kramer and Lady Northover said, is that it is now almost impossible to strip out human rights considerations from global trade. We require a degree of pragmatism from our Government in the scope of how much extra global trade we can have. Over the last couple of years, there has been a huge narrative saying that, once we are free of the shackles of the European Union, there will be massive growth potential in untapped markets around the world. Of course, there are constraints on that: in opening up those markets, there can be unfair access to our country that puts us at a disadvantage, or we can reduce standards or set them aside. That means setting aside new international norms on human rights and sustainability, inasmuch as they are a legitimate restriction on total and unlimited free trade.

The narrative therefore needs a degree of adjustment. I wish to address Amendment 45, which I hope is a reasonable addition to this debate but should also be seen within the package of Amendments 23 and 39, which are not in this group. It is about an overall framework of what the restrictions should be on our entering into trade agreements, the level of scrutiny that should exist and how we report on their impact. I hope that together they might allay some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, given what he said in the previous group about the need for a proper level of scrutiny.

Every year the Government publish a human rights and democracy report. This year, Human Rights and Democracy: the 2019 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report ran to nearly 70 pages. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, prefaced it, after the Foreign Secretary, by saying:

“Every day, across the globe, UK Ministers and officials stand up for a set of universal rights that, if fully realised, would afford everyone, everywhere, dignity and allow people to flourish.”


I agree with him, and I am not sure that anybody would disagree with that. It is now inevitable, since we have an independent trading policy, that the impact of our trading relationships will have to be incorporated into our reporting. I am fairly open-minded as to how that is done, as long as it is done, and I am very happy to develop the idea further along the lines of the discussions suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. But I want to give a reason why it is also important and raise some questions for the Minister.

As we have said, it has become the practice for human rights to be part of the political and social chapters of trade deals. That has been the case over recent years and it has been the case in the EU common approach to the use of political clauses agreed in 2009. According to EU practice, in trade agreements human rights are to be included in EU political framework agreements under “essential elements clauses”. EU FTAs are to be linked to those political framework agreements. If no political framework agreement exists, essential elements clauses are to be included, and serious breaches of those clauses may trigger the suspension, in whole or in part, of the overall framework agreements. All the agreements, including the trade agreements, are linked. Are we seeking to continue this approach to future trade agreements? Will we deviate from an approach that we helped design in 2009?

My second point relates to Clause 2 powers, which we have already referred to this afternoon. I remind the Committee that it provides the authority to make regulations considered

“appropriate for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement”,

including those that make provision for modifying primary legislation that is retained EU law. The Minister referred to that during debate on the first group. I remind the Committee that retained EU law includes primary legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, the Energy Act 2013 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as referred to. Therefore, it is important to know that the implication of the regulation-making power in this Bill is an ability to change primary legislation on human rights. For example, the Equality Act gives effect to four EU law mandates: the race equality directive, the equal treatment directive, the equal treatment in goods and services directive and the equal treatment recast directive. Therefore, to allay many of the concerns, can the Minister tell us whether the Government will rule out using this regulatory power to amend primary human rights legislation? If he cannot give that commitment, I am afraid that he will have to appreciate that concerns about the Government’s intentions will remain, because the Bill has insufficient safeguards to ensure that human rights legislation, debated and voted on in primary legislation, cannot be amended by regulations.

Coming back to international trade, my final point concerns continuity and pragmatism. It is not the case that there has been no consideration of human rights in continuity agreements so far. I am a member of the International Relations and Defence Select Committee, which has written to the Government and the Minister about human rights considerations regarding trade and continuity agreements with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We have agreements, that have been EU agreements, with Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, Eswatini, Iraq, Kazakhstan and the Palestinian Authority. They are all classified by Freedom House as not free, but all those agreements have human rights components within them. I will be the first to say that this is not a panacea and that some—with Vietnam, for example—are fairly problematic, but they all exist. Therefore, if the Government are seeking powers over the next five years to amend those agreements by regulations, what are their intentions for the human rights clauses of those continuity agreements? If the Minister can clarify that, it will be very helpful.

Canada has been referred to in debate on this group and it is a very interesting example. The approach for Canada has developed beyond simply those that we have had for other continuity agreements. A European Parliament briefing on the CETA says that

“a particularly serious and substantial violation of human rights or non-proliferation, as defined in paragraph 3, could also serve as grounds for the termination of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.”

Therefore, for the first time, what is envisaged is not simply the suspension of trading relationships but the termination of those relationships—a nuclear option, as it were. One would imagine that that would never become the situation between Canada and the EU, but the possibility exists.

Given that it is government policy to have a Canada-style agreement, there is no reference in the draft text from the Government to the EU that they published over the summer to any equivalence for human rights. There is none at all. The only reference to human rights in the draft text would be to deny most favoured nation status to other third countries if they violate human rights. If we are to trust the Government, which the Minister says repeatedly for us to do, why is it that in their draft text for the EU agreement, they have not put in any draft text for any human rights clauses as far as we operate with the European Union? The very least we can do is to have the ability to ask the Government to report on its impacts.

With reference to the comments by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes—and I will conclude on this point—the Government publish a comprehensive human rights and democracy report every year. That is not onerous; that is what the Government do. As they say, it underpins their foreign policy. With regard to sectors in our amendment, they are sectors linked to all of the sections within the agreement. That is fairly straightforward. When it refers to our commitments, and the countries we have signed commitments with, yes, it is the whole lot, because that also covers what we currently have within the Commission.

The only reference to human rights, in what the Government are proposing with future trade agreements, is other countries not adhering to them. We do not believe this is sufficient. I am very happy to speak to the Minister, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and others, if there is a better way of having this. Given the fact that trade is going to be a fundamental part of our foreign policy and our foreign relationships, we will require a reporting mechanism of the impact of trade on human rights for the United Kingdom and those we trade with.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, before I come to Amendments 11, 18, 33 and 45, I want to put on record that we have heard some very powerful views on human rights expressed by noble Lords in the Committee today. I deeply respect those views and when I say, with all due respect, they are not relevant to this Bill, which is about continuity agreements, I hope that is not in any way taken as me belittling those views that have been expressed. I would also like to put on record that we do not see it as a choice between securing growth and investment for the UK, and raising human rights. There is not a trade-off here that we are looking to make.

The UK is active in raising human rights concerns. In the case of China, it raises those concerns both directly with the Chinese authorities and in multilateral fora. For example, on 30 June the UK delivered a statement on behalf of 28 countries at the UN Human Rights Council, highlighting some of the matters that noble Lords have raised today—that is, highlighting arbitrary detention, widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly those targeting Uighurs and other minorities, and urging China to allow the UN high commissioner for human rights meaningful access to Xinjiang. When I say these concerns are not relevant to the Bill, I am in no way say these concerns are not relevant in a wider context and deeply felt.

Coming to the amendments we have been debating today and turning first to Amendment 11, I am proud to say the UK has a strong history of protecting human rights and promoting our values globally. This will not change once we leave the EU. We have always been clear that we have no intention of lowering protections in these areas, as the Prime Minister set out in his Greenwich speech earlier this year. We are not engaged, as the noble Lord, Lord Hain, said or feared, in a race to the bottom. The bottom would not be an appropriate place for the United Kingdom to find itself.

It should come as no surprise that our continuity programme is consistent with existing international obligations as it seeks to replicate existing EU agreements which, of course, are fully compliant with such obligations. By transitioning these agreements, we are reaffirming the UK’s commitment to international obligations on labour and human rights. As noble Lords know, we are seeking to provide certainty and stability in trading relationships for UK businesses and consumers through our trade agreement continuity programme.

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Baroness Cox Portrait Baroness Cox (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly, just to put on record the issues I would have highlighted in my speech if I had not ineptly failed to identify the amendments to which I intended to speak, for which I apologise. I will have much more to say when we reach Amendment 68, on genocide, at later sittings.

It is a privilege to speak in support of Amendment 33. On 29 June I spoke in support of an amendment, also moved by my noble friend Lord Alton, to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill, saying:

“This is not about China or Chinese companies … It is a conflict of values between … democratic societies and repressive, cruel regimes”—[Official Report, 29/6/20; col. 529.]


such as China—and I would add today, as they are especially relevant, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

China is undertaking religious persecution of Muslims and Christians, using slave labour and incarcerating Uighurs in concentration camps, as noble Lords have already heard. There is also the enforced sterilisation of Uighur women in four prefectures, which would violate the 1948 Geneva convention.

The United States has banned imports, including cotton and computer parts, from five regions in China, claiming that these extraordinary human rights violations demand an extraordinary response. This is modern-day slavery. As I finish my brief resumé, for the protection of our national security, our national interest and our values, I believe Amendment 33 is essential and Parliament should have the right to ratify trade agreements.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. I have carefully noted them.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am conscious of time and I will try to be brief. We had an interesting discussion because this was a good group, even though it was quite widely drawn. We touched on the limits and what the Government should have to say about their policies going into negotiations. We talked about what aspirations they might have, how they go forward and the scrutiny arrangements that should follow. Out of that came a sense, that we all shared, that if you wanted evidence that trade matters to Parliament, this debate and particularly the section on the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, proved that we were talking about substantial issues at the heart of what we think about a democracy and that are important for how we relate to society more widely.

Having said that, we should not forget the earlier discussions, particularly those led by my noble friends Lord Hendy and Lord Hain. I thought that the speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, and my noble friend Lord Judd, were also important and I also appreciated the comments made by my noble friend Lord Hunt. We covered a lot of ground, have a lot to think about and will read Hansard carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.