Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-III Third marshalled list for Report - (22 Dec 2020)
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, on my way in today I was reflecting on the fact that I started last year, at about this time, discussing a trade Bill on Report, so it is nice to see that some traditions in the House of Lords do not change.

I support Amendment 22, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester indicated. He moved it very well. I do not need to rehearse all the arguments because, as my noble friend indicated, we have had many debates on this issue.

I was grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to what looks to be the news that the Senate of the United States may well be changing hands. That will bring about a direct consequence for the UK’s trade negotiations. This amendment refers to domestic standards, but it also links to who we trade with. Will there be pressure on our domestic standards by the country that we seek to have an agreement with? We know that the discussions with America are ongoing, and they are likely now to be impacted by a Democrat-controlled White House and full Congress—both Houses.

The consequence of that will mean that the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act 2015, which put in place conditions on the US trade representative in negotiations on agriculture, environmental standards and objectives, will be reformed, so the United States will have a new position when it comes to the ongoing discussions with the United Kingdom. That is now inevitable, which means that in our approach to the negotiations it is valid that we discuss what our equivalent legislation in this country will be that set our standards, and what the requirements on Ministers will be.

We know that the Government have accepted in part to enshrine standards obligations in a treaty. The European TCA, for example, has set a three-year standstill on organic standards. That is a guarantee, if ever there was one, that there would be no change over a period. Why three years? The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, indicated that it would be a nonsense to put into any form of legislation a commitment that a Minister has given not to deviate from standards, but why then did we legislate for that exact thing last week in the Act for the European agreement? A standstill for three years on organic standards is a restriction on how this Parliament can now operate standards on organic farming. With that legislation, the Government have bound us for three years. I do not think there is any disagreement about that, because offering some degree of certainty to organic farmers on the standards that will be accepted for trading between the United Kingdom and the European Union is a positive thing. We suggest that under Amendment 22 there are other positive elements that should be highlighted regarding the way that we trade.

I was puzzled by the assertion that Amendment 22 will fetter the prerogative of Ministers and will limit their freedom to bring measures to Parliament for approval by indicating in effect instructions under statute of how they exercise their powers. What puzzles me is that the opposite side supported that with a government amendment to the Agriculture Act. I remind the House that Section 42 is a fettering of the prerogative power that limits the freedoms of Ministers, because it requires them, before they bring forward approval under CRaG, to carry out an exercise whereby they seek an independent body, now a statutory independent body—to emphasise the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, about something that she has already supported—to report before Parliament acts. Therefore it is not we who do not necessarily trust the Government, because clearly the Government do not trust themselves if they brought forward an amendment to their own Bill that required an independent statutory body to report to Parliament before we even had a vote on it.

The noble Baroness’s point is even more reduced by the very quick search I was able to do on the legislation website for “Ministers must have regard to” before they carry out their duties. There are scores of examples in legislation where Ministers “must have regard to” before they exercise their ministerial functions on immigration, the health service, judicial appointments, inquiries. In most large areas where Ministers carry out their duties, such as negotiating trade or carrying out health duties, judicial appointments or whatever, there are many statutory expectations of what they must do before they carry out their functions. Amendment 22 is appropriate, because it puts in a slightly wider set of criteria on Section 42 of the Agriculture Act, which the Government themselves had put forward.

My final point is on standards in particular. I am glad that Amendment 22 references women’s rights. We debated the UK-Japan agreement at length, and there was consensus around the House that one of the deficiencies of that agreement was that it did not expand on the areas for supporting women’s rights and expanding women’s economic empowerment within that agreement. On human rights, we know that the Cotonou agreement is already out of date and has to be replaced, so the extra elements under proposed new subsection (3) of Amendment 22 are appropriate.

I will make one point on food rights that links to developments just three days ago with regard to food imports. We assume that food that comes into the United Kingdom is of the same standard that we would expect our own producers to sell elsewhere, and we have worked very hard through the Fairtrade Foundation, which we have supported, and other organisations to make sure that that is the case. I was very sad to learn that Brexit tariffs were imposed on a shipment of fair-trade goods from Africa that arrived into Portsmouth—£17,500 on shipments of bananas from Ghana—and that tariffs of 16.5% will be imposed on tuna.

I hope very much that the Government will recognise that this should not be the situation and that it can be rectified. As much as we want to promote other countries improving standards on labour rights, environmental standards and food standards, as we do here at home, we must work in partnership and we should not penalise those for whom we seek to have much higher standards. I am very happy to support Amendment 22.

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 seems very appropriate that we are beginning the new year by welcoming a familiar friend: a debate on standards in the Trade Bill. Yet again, there were most interesting comments from noble Lords in the debate.

I turn first to Amendment 20, so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, which seeks to prevent the ratification of FTAs unless there are provisions that ensure that imports under those FTAs comply with the UK’s domestic standards for food safety, animal welfare and the environment.

As noble Lords know, the Bill is principally concerned with continuity agreements, which we have now signed with 63 partner countries. It is rather cheering that each time I speak from this Dispatch Box that number has crept up. I should emphasise to noble Lords that none of those agreements has led to a lowering of domestic standards. Cheap food is not flooding our market. Workers’ rights are not being undermined. All we have done is deliver on our central objective of providing continuity for businesses and consumers.

The amendment has unintended consequences that its signatories have not addressed. It could, I am afraid, jeopardise the UK’s ability to meet its WTO commitments. WTO rules constrain the ability of the UK to restrict imports based on criteria such as animal welfare and environmental protection. These WTO rules play an important and balanced role in containing disguised protectionism, but inevitably mean that there is a real risk of a WTO dispute if we do not handle these important matters with care.

Establishing the amendment as a negotiating objective has the potential to create great uncertainty and undermine continuity for businesses at an already critical time. I know that noble Lords would not wish this. It may of course jeopardise the implementation of continuity agreements, including those already signed but not yet ratified. Let us not forget that UK businesses have a long history of trading under these agreements and rely on them for stability and certainty. Any delay to implementation will impact the import of goods on which businesses and consumers are dependent. Furthermore, the noble Baroness’s amendment could result in similar measures being deployed by trade partners with regard to UK exports. That could prevent UK producers from being able to export goods overseas until they had demonstrated that they had met the domestic standards of our trade partners.

However, we of course understand the importance of this issue and the Government have established a number of initiatives to ensure that any concerns around agriculture and the environment are addressed at each stage of the negotiation processes. This includes: public consultations ahead of new trade negotiations; increased engagement with agriculture and agri-food stakeholders; establishing the trade advisory groups; and of course passing an amendment to this Bill, placing the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing.

I now turn to Amendment 22, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Purvis, alongside the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. As I have explained, our continuity programme maintains high standards in areas including food standards, human rights and environmental obligations. Indeed, in many areas the UK goes much further than the EU. Like the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, I am proud of our standards. Let me give some examples.

When discussing workers’ rights, the UK has led the way and the EU is significantly behind us. The statutory minimum wage in the UK for people aged 25 and over is £8.72 an hour, whereas the EU has no legal minimum. Furthermore, UK workers can get statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks, whereas the EU has no minimum sick leave or sick pay legislation. Further still—this gets to the crux of our debate—the UK has world-leading standards for animal welfare, while food standards are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, which I am sure noble Lords agree are the most independent of experts.

The UK has a strong history of protecting human rights and promoting our values globally. We will continue to encourage all states to uphold international human rights obligations. It should also be said that there is no provision within the Trade Bill that could allow amendment of the Human Rights Act.

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15:50

Division 1

Ayes: 290


Labour: 138
Liberal Democrat: 78
Crossbench: 49
Independent: 15
Democratic Unionist Party: 4
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 274


Conservative: 222
Crossbench: 39
Independent: 10
Ulster Unionist Party: 2

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all speakers for their contributions to this rather important debate. I was happy to sign up to Amendment 23, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, because surely ensuring online safety for children and otherwise vulnerable people is one of the key issues of our time. Secondly, while the age-appropriate design amendments your Lordships’ House made to the Data Protection Act 2018 have made a start in ensuring that the UK is a safe place for children to be online, much still hangs on the progress of the as yet unpublished online harms Bill. Sadly, there is still rather a long way to go before that become law. If, and when, the online harms Bill, assuming it retains its present ambitions, becomes law, it may provide a bulwark against any tendency the Government may have in future to trade away current or future protections for our children and other vulnerable users. But we are not there yet.

The points made by my noble friends Lord Knight and Lord McNally about the way in which the US tech giant lobby has been forcing changes on recent trade deals are, frankly, chilling. This is not the time to weaken current protections for children online. We must ensure that future trade deals protect our current, and prospective, domestic legislation, and we can do that by taking this issue off the negotiating table.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 23, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Sheikh, would preclude the Government from signing an international trade agreement that is not compliant with existing domestic and international obligations relating to the protection of children on the internet, including under the Data Protection Act.

I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, for meeting me and discussing this in more depth. Nobody can doubt the passion and resolve she brings to this issue, and I can assure her that the Government share her concerns, and those of other noble Lords who have spoken so powerfully in the debate. I personally fully share those concerns.

That is why I am pleased to confirm that our trade agreements are already fully compliant with existing domestic and international policies protecting children on the internet. We are already committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. We carefully consider any interaction between trade policy and impacts on user protection in trade agreements.

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17:08

Division 2

Ayes: 340


Labour: 144
Crossbench: 83
Liberal Democrat: 79
Independent: 14
Bishops: 10
Democratic Unionist Party: 4
Green Party: 2
Conservative: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 248


Conservative: 220
Crossbench: 15
Independent: 11
Ulster Unionist Party: 2

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17:51

Division 3

Ayes: 298


Labour: 137
Liberal Democrat: 81
Crossbench: 52
Independent: 17
Conservative: 2
Green Party: 2
Democratic Unionist Party: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 252


Conservative: 213
Crossbench: 29
Independent: 9
Democratic Unionist Party: 1

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for joining with me in this group of amendments and leading with Amendment 26A on labelling. I have added my name to this amendment as a further step that accompanies all the measures being undertaken to maintain, in a fully transparent manner, the equivalence or consistency of imported food to the current standards that will be applied within the UK. I will speak to Amendments 31A and 34A in my name in this group, and once again thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for her support, and other noble Lords who have spoken.

This returns the House again to the debates undertaken on the Trade and Agriculture Commission during the passage of the Agriculture Bill, which other speakers will remember so well. The conclusion of the Agriculture Act was that the CRaG Act 2010 was amended by new Section 42, while the Trade and Agriculture Commission to implement scrutiny on trade deals would be implemented in the Trade Bill. Unfortunately, the shape of the TAC in this Bill does not comply entirely with the shape agreed with Defra Ministers regarding public health, or the fact that others may well have other ideas about what the TAC should be.

Amendments 31A and 34A would reinsert public health considerations through food imports into the functions of the TAC. Defra Ministers had agreed these aspects and, indeed, Clause 42 includes them. Why, then, does the Minister in the Department for International Trade wish to go back on that agreement? In discussions, Victoria Prentis declared that the Government across all relevant departments, including Defra, the Cabinet Office and the Department for International Trade, had signed off on that agreement. It could well have included the DHSC as well.

I thank the Minister and his team for the discussion undertaken with myself and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on Monday afternoon. Indeed, I listened carefully to his replies in Committee that gave rise to these amendments. I am grateful to his further but, unfortunately, unconvincing explanations. In Committee, he replied that Ministers can and do receive advice on standards on food from the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, which will take on the role of upholding current legislative bans on foods that would continue to be banned, and that Ministers do not need advice from the TAC as well. He expanded on this on Monday, saying that he sees Amendment 31A as channelling all that advice from the FSA to Ministers through the TAC. To his department, that is not necessary. He wishes the agency’s advice to come directly to his department.

Once again, as experienced when pressing the Minister, the reply seemed to be about process. However, the amendment is not about process and where advice to Ministers comes from. It is about full transparency to Parliament and the public, not merely to Ministers, through the scrutiny of the new export body, the Trade and Agriculture Commission. It does not take over all the reporting structures of the FSA. The TAC can direct and ask questions of the FSA, I am sure, on its investigations and analysis. Normal advice and input from agencies can continue during all the long process of negotiating trade deals, and not be concertinaed down into the CRAG, time-constrained process.

Is the Minister saying that his department did not sign off on the agreements reached during the passage of the Agriculture Bill? Amendment 31A would reinsert expertise on human health into the membership of the TAC, and Amendment 34A would consequently reinsert that advice into the reports of the TAC.

I shall press my amendment to a vote and call on the support of the House to return this matter for further consideration in the Commons, which previously agreed to the Agriculture Bill outcome, with the addition of public health in the scrutiny process of the TAC.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I turn now to Amendment 26A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

First, it is important to note—I hope this provides some reassurance to the noble Baroness—that all imports must meet the UK’s regulatory requirements, and this includes imports needing to meet our high food safety standards. Of course, this will remain the case. However, the amendment will undermine our abilities to successfully negotiate and agree new international trade agreements and to import goods from trade partners. That will have implications for all goods imported under our international trade agreements, including continuity agreements and the WTO agreements.

Requiring that such labels be applied to imports only would discriminate between domestic and imported goods. This may seem a technical matter, but it would risk violation of the UK’s WTO and FTA commitments, as well as imposing additional labelling costs and administrative burdens on imports. The amendment would also have dire consequences for developing nations, which are unlikely to be able to meet this new requirement and would no longer be able to export goods to the UK, thereby losing a valuable income stream for them, their local businesses and communities.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about conformity marking. This is a complex matter and to ensure that my answer is completely accurate, I will, with his permission, write to him and, of course, place a copy in the Library.

Turning to Amendments 31A and 34A, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for the meeting we had on Monday to discuss these. I completely understand the good intentions that lie behind these amendments. Of course, the Government recognise that public health and health inequalities are important issues. The fact that advice will not be sought from the statutory TAC in relation to this should in no way dilute this message, which I thoroughly endorse. This is why the Government have taken steps to ensure that relevant interests are taken into account at every step of the negotiations process, from public consultations at the start, dedicated trade advisory groups during it and, of course, independent scrutiny of the final deal at the end.

The government amendment to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing, which we discussed at length on the first day of Report, provides an advisory role for the TAC to help inform the report required by Section 42 of the Agriculture Act. The TAC will advise the Secretary of State on the extent to which FTA measures applicable to “trade in agricultural products”—as specified in the Act—are consistent with UK levels of statutory protection relating to animal and plant life and health, animal welfare and the environment. It will not advise on human health because the Government believe that this advice is best taken from other appropriate bodies. This in no way diminishes the importance of that advice; it means that we believe that it would be best for this advice to come from other, better-qualified, bodies. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, we will, of course, make it clear, in due course, where the advice is being drawn from in this important area.

We believe that it would be inappropriate for the TAC to be expanded in the way proposed because there are already groups looking to tackle the issues raised by this amendment. We consider that, if the TAC advised on these issues as well, it would risk wasteful duplication of effort with existing groups with similar functions—indeed, this could overwhelm the TAC and prevent it from fulfilling its obligations in other areas. Important issues such as health inequalities involve multiple factors beyond trade policy that the TAC’s remit cannot fully address. I really believe that this is not the right forum. The TAC’s advice should focus specifically on product characteristics rather than broader policy on public health and health inequalities.

In preparing the Section 42 report, the Secretary of State may also seek advice from any person considered to be

“independent and to have relevant expertise.”

Of course, this will be a transparent process. This does not restrict or exclude experts in any specific area of human health. I hope that this reassures noble Lords, and I ask for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB) [V]
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First, I thank the Minister and the people who spoke in the debate, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, who made the point that good labelling gives us confidence in the Government, which we all really need right now. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, who made the point that we now take these things for granted and that we should never do so with something like this: it is a privilege to have good labelling, and it is one that we should hold on to. I will not press this to a Division, but I wholly support the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in his desire to push Amendment 31A to one. I thank the Minister for his words and attempted reassurance, but I am afraid that it has not worked for me at all.

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Moved by
31: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
“PART 2ATHE TRADE AND AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONTrade and Agriculture Commission
(1) The Secretary of State may appoint members to a committee to be known as the Trade and Agriculture Commission (the “TAC”).(2) The TAC’s purpose is to provide advice under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020 (reports relating to free trade agreements).(3) When appointing members to the TAC, the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of appointing members who, between them, have expertise in—(a) United Kingdom animal and plant health standards,(b) United Kingdom animal welfare standards,(c) United Kingdom environmental standards as they relate to agricultural products, and(d) international trade law and policy.(4) In subsection (3)(c), “agricultural products” has the meaning given in section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide for appointments to, and the purpose of, the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
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19:10

Division 4

Ayes: 285


Labour: 135
Liberal Democrat: 76
Crossbench: 52
Independent: 14
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Green Party: 2
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 258


Conservative: 213
Crossbench: 34
Independent: 8
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

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Moved by
34: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
“Trade and Agriculture Commission: advisory functions
(1) Section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020 is amended as follows.(2) After subsection (4), insert—“(4A) In preparing the report, the Secretary of State must—(a) request advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission on the matters referred to in subsection (2) except insofar as they relate to human life or health, and(b) publish the request, together with any associated terms of reference or guidance.(4B) Before laying the report, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament any advice received in response to a request under subsection (4A).”(3) In subsection (5)—(a) after “report” insert “or advice received in response to a request under subsection (4A)”;(b) omit “of it”;(c) in paragraph (d) after “report” insert “or advice”.(4) After subsection (6), insert—“(6A) On or before the third anniversary of IP completion day and at least once every three years thereafter, the Secretary of State must review the operation of subsections (4A) and (4B) and consider whether to make regulations under subsection (6B).(6B) The Secretary of State may by regulations repeal subsections (4A), (4B) and (6A), and amend subsection (5) to remove reference to advice requested in accordance with subsection (4A).(6C) Regulations under subsection (6B) are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and may not come into force before the third anniversary of IP completion day.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission in preparing a report under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020.
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I beg to move.

Amendment 34A (to Amendment 34)

Moved by
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Moved by
35: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
“Trade and Agriculture Commission: further provision
(1) Members of the TAC are not to be regarded as servants or agents of the Crown or as enjoying any status, immunity or privilege of the Crown.(2) The Secretary of State may provide members of the TAC with such staff, accommodation, equipment or other facilities as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate in connection with the preparation of advice requested under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020.(3) The Secretary of State may pay, or make provision for paying, expenses to any member of the TAC in connection with the preparation of advice requested under section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020.(4) Schedule (Trade and Agriculture Commission: public authorities legislation) contains provision applying legislation relating to public bodies to the TAC.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would make provision about administrative matters relating to the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, anybody seeking to follow this Trade Bill, including the Bill that we had before Christmas, will struggle to follow the three elements through a natural progression—but we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for his forensic skill. He has been able to assist in the scrutiny of this, and the questions he asks are very valid. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has brought forward his amendment, and I look forward to the response from the Government and the Minister. Like others, I welcome the Minister’s very full letter in response to the debate that we had on that fast-tracked piece of legislation.

There are a couple of areas that are still troubling me, and I hope the Minister will be able to explain those. I am happy with his explanation that it is purely a matter of parliamentary drafting, with the same legal effect. I will use this ad nauseam in my future career in this House, when it comes to any Ministers quibbling over the drafting of any amendments that I bring forward. I will say that it is purely drafting, with the same legal effect—so, speaking personally, I am very happy that that precedent has been set.

I am glad that the amendments to this Bill, which will effectively become the successor to the fast-tracked Bill, reference HMRC sharing information with the devolved Administrations. This goes back to the very first time we discussed these amendments, so I am happy and pleased that the Government have indicated their support for that.

However, I am interested in the language of Amendment 37, which I welcome, when it states:

“facilitating the exercise by a devolved authority of the authority’s functions relating to trade”.

Can the Minister outline what these are? In the previous group, on consulting the devolved Administrations on trade agreements, the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, was at pains to stress—and was accurate—that, under the Scotland Act and others, trade, as far as international relations are concerned, is a reserved matter.

However, we all know that there are “functions relating to trade” in the devolved Administrations; we know this for certain because it will be in the Bill. HMRC will facilitate the exercise of those functions by the powers under what will be this Act. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline what those “functions relating to trade” are; it would be helpful to us to know the extent of the Government’s position as regards what responsibilities for trade the devolved Administrations have.

Another thing still niggling me is referenced in the Minister’s letter. I have asked on a number of occasions why it was not more straightforward to put authorities that are linked with the ports and their access routes, in Scotland in particular, under those areas in the Bill. The Government have said that the powers were needed in England primarily, as the Minister’s letter stated, because those authorities were identified as the ones facing the greatest disruption at the end of the transition period, but this legislation is now for the long term and this data will also be shared with the WTO and other international bodies.

The Government have said that if it becomes necessary to add an authority in a devolved Administration country, they can use order-making powers to do it, but in subsection (4) there is a reference to an offence in Scotland for a non-existing authority breaching the disclosing information powers, and it carries a term not exceeding 12 months, so for a body that is not included in the legislation it is a 12-month prison sentence for disclosing information. That happens to be twice the length of time that it will now be in England, under government Amendment 40, which is six months. I do not know why that is the case, so perhaps the Minister can explain. There seems to be a ghost criminal offence created by this legislation that does not impact on anybody and is twice as much as it is in England. I just do not understand why.

I hope that the Minister can respond. I will certainly be supporting these amendments. The letter was very helpful and gave the process for indicating when the sunset clause will kick in for the legislation that we passed before Christmas, and given that this legislation is now for the very long term I hope that the Minister can respond to the points that have been raised.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I am perpetually grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, for his contribution to the discussion of this Bill. Turning to Amendment 36A, in the noble Lord’s name, I am sure that noble Lords will agree that for the Government to grow and strengthen the UK’s export capability, we need a clear understanding of the UK’s exporters. This would ensure that the work we do is targeted and tailored to the businesses where it will deliver the maximum benefit.

Clause 7 sets out the powers needed for the Government to collect data to establish the number and identity of UK businesses exporting goods and services, particularly the smaller businesses and sole traders that may not be readily identifiable from existing data, and where the Government can provide a helping hand, something of course which the Government enjoy doing, so that they can reach new markets.

Amendment 36A to remove Clause 7(4) would restrict the ability of the Government to fully implement the new voluntary—I stress voluntary—exporter question. A similar amendment was discussed in Committee, when noble Lords raised concerns that secondary legislation should not have the power to change primary legislation. However, to include new questions within the relevant tax return—it is that very specified matter—an affirmative SI will be required to amend the relevant legislation. That is the purpose of Clause 7(4), which provides the necessary powers to do so. I repeat that Clause 7(4) is necessary to ensure that the relevant exporter questions are included, as intended on tax return forms. The practical implementation of this will be a tick box on tax returns which the person filling in the tax return can tick if he wishes to identify himself as an exporter; it is entirely voluntary. On that basis, I ask for the amendment to be withdrawn.

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Moved by
37: Clause 8, page 5, line 22, after “trade,” insert—
“(ab) facilitating the exercise by a devolved authority of the authority’s functions relating to trade,”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would ensure that HMRC is able to disclose information to a devolved authority.
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Moved by
39: Clause 9, page 7, line 6, after “2016” insert “(save that the powers conferred by this section are to be taken into account when determining whether a disclosure is prohibited by those provisions)”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would correct a drafting error: the words in parenthesis should limit both paragraphs in subsection (8).
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Moved by
40: Clause 10, page 7, line 46, at end insert—
“(5) In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020, the reference in subsection (4)(b)(i) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to 6 months.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would take account of the fact that magistrates do not have powers to confer a 12 month sentence (because paragraph 24(2) of Schedule 22 to the Sentencing Act 2020 is yet to come into force).
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has raised a very interesting question. We need to think a bit harder about it than we did when we first looked at this in Committee.

The issue is not so much with the powers split between the Commons and Lords in relation to financial matters, which I think was the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. It is more to do with—as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was trying to get us on to—the reality of the grounds on which we have to consider more widely and the relationship between a pure measure, such as tariffs, and the way in which it might be used in any trade dispute, or any day-to-day consideration of our trading relationships. Out of that comes a consideration about whether this is an executive issue or there are also parliamentary concerns.

Taking it from the other end, the fact that the powers enshrined in the original legislation are for a negative instrument suggests that the Government have taken the view that this needs the very lowest level of parliamentary scrutiny. As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, pointed out very well, this cannot be right. These areas often deal with very important and quite meaty issues to do with industrial policy, employment and the whole economy. There seems to be a distortion being built up between the particular issue in hand, the remedies available and the role of Parliament in considering it.

Surely it would be wrong if we ended up in a situation where the only parliamentary process was consideration of a negative statutory instrument when, in truth, the effects it was trying to ameliorate were causing concern on quite a large scale in the country. I do not have a solution to this. I do not think this Bill is going to provide us with an outlet. I wonder whether the Minister might consider taking this away. Perhaps a more considered review is needed in a couple of years’ time, when we have had experience of how it works in practice.

Without wishing to put words in his mouth or ask him to commit to something he cannot commit to, can he give an assurance that this is something the Government will keep a close eye on? Should issues arise during the next year or so, an appropriate way forward would be to take this as an issue and see whether, as a result of the scale of the penalties, the style of the approach being taken through Parliament and the impact this is having on the economy more widely, it might be best dealt with through a review process.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I turn to Amendment 41 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley, which seeks to ensure that regulations made under Section 15 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 will be made under the affirmative parliamentary procedure. I remind noble Lords that that section allows the Secretary of State to vary the rate of import duty—that is, increase or decrease tariffs—in the context of an international trade dispute.

First, I begin by thanking my noble friend for his commitment to this issue, alongside the correspondence and meetings that we have had on the matter. I hope my noble friend found them at least partly as useful as I did.

Noble Lords may recall that I explained in Committee why I believe that it is imperative that HMG are able to enforce, swiftly and confidently, the UK’s rights under international trade agreements. I explained to the House that the conduct of state-to-state trade disputes is a matter of foreign diplomacy and is covered by the royal prerogative. I also reminded the House that international litigation, including launching and defending international trade disputes, can be extremely sensitive, with far-reaching geopolitical implications. I shall not attempt to justify sensitivity in itself, of course, as a reason for avoiding scrutiny. However, when that sensitivity may give rise to matters that are extremely prejudicial to the UK’s position, it must be absolutely right to take it into account.

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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I apologise for detaining the House; I know the hour is late. I am grateful to the Minister for outlining those examples. He gave the impression that Parliament should not necessarily have the ability to approve any of these measures, but that this should be Government to Government, prerogative to prerogative. However, the legislation provides for parliamentary approval if it is through a negative procedure. So Parliament could still annul this, which would bring about all the issues he warns against. He seems to be making the case that Parliament should not even have the ability to annul some of these measures. If Parliament ultimately has the ability to approve or not to approve, we are in a different realm. I hope that, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, indicated, the Government could at least reflect on this debate and the points that have been made on the benefit of having a wider degree of scrutiny, or at least public debate, of some of these aspects.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for those comments. The Government will of course reflect on this debate. I perfectly understand the requirement for the annulment power, but I believe that both Houses of Parliament would wish to use that annulment power sensibly and sensitively, in light of the circumstances which might underlie it.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am most grateful to all those who contributed to this short debate. It demonstrated the value, even at this late hour, of some of the additional issues brought out in the context of the scenarios and specific instances that my noble friend put in his response to the debate.

I think I have been inadvertently responsible for misleading the House. I intended to talk about parliamentary approval, but in doing so got carried away and talked about this House. Of course, this House would have no role. The regulations made under the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act, if “made affirmative”, would be subject to the approval only of the House of Commons.

Therefore, in response to my noble friend Lady Noakes, I make two points. First, we are accustomed, from time to time, to making amendments to Bills that run the risk of being declined by the other place on grounds of financial privilege. However, that does not mean that we never make such amendments and invite the Commons to think again. The second point that I should make to her is that, in this instance, the effect of the amendment would be to give the House of Commons—but not our House—the right to consider regulations made under this power.

That said, I do not resile from the view that sensitive matters can, none the less, be debated in Parliament, and it is not beyond the wit of Ministers and civil servants to ensure that, in explaining the choices that have been made in the regulation, they do not disclose information of value to those who would do us harm. That happens on many occasions and, in fact—even in the scenarios to which my noble friend refers—the choices we have made and why we have made them would very often not have been lost upon other parties in trade disputes. I do not resile from the view that because something is sensitive and important it should be debated in Parliament—in this instance, because it relates to what are effectively attacks, only in the other place.

None the less, the helpful response from my noble friend —who genuinely tried to explain why the Government took the approach they did, rather than what was set out originally in the Explanatory Memorandum—took us some way towards thinking about this matter in a way described by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. We may yet come back to this matter, but not during the passage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
42: Clause 11, page 8, line 4, at end insert—
““devolved authority” has the meaning given in section 4(1);”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Government’s amendment to clause 8, page 5, line 22.
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Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for allowing us to conclude at the place where we started: procurement. It is perhaps a sign—I agree with the noble Baroness—that there has been a creeping increase in executive power during this process. At least the scrutiny that this House has afforded the Bill has been thorough, even if the Government may think it has been too long. Nevertheless, we started discussions on this Bill with procurement. And then the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill was introduced, scrutinised and passed before we came to the conclusion of this.

Of interest, the question that I asked the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, on the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill was how the regulations on procurement would interact with those that will come through our obligations under international procurement. Could the Minister give us a timeframe for when we expect to see the implementation of many of the Government’s policies on procurement that will now be authorised through our membership of the global arrangements? That interaction is going to be very important.

I have sympathy with the amendment on the basis that the extent of procurement goes far beyond what many people may think, which is simply about the Government purchasing goods. So much of our NHS, in both primary and mental health, is provided by contractors through procurement. The extent is really quite extensive—it is a considerable part of the UK economy—so this is not something that we should be shy about discussing in brief. It is of major importance to the UK economy, and indeed it will be a key part of our international relations.

So I ask the Minister to outline a little more detail. If he cannot give me that information today, I will be happy for him to write to me, because we will be needing to debate in full the Government’s procurement policies going forward, preferably through resolutions in both Houses. We wish to see the details of the Government’s intentions.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I will now address Amendment 46, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, which seeks to apply the affirmative procedure for any regulations made using the powers under Clause 1.

Perhaps understandably, because this is the last amendment that we will be addressing on Report, noble Lords wished to get certain matters off their chest at the commencement of debate on this amendment, so perhaps they will understand if I do not respond specifically to those points but restrict my comments to the amendment. I will of course commit to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that I will write to him with details of the exact timetable, which I do not have available to me at the moment.

Turning to this amendment and, as I say, restricting my comments to the amendment, given the late hour, I first remind noble Lords that the UK will accede to the GPA on the basis of continuity. This means that the “coverage schedules” referenced by noble Lords today and in Committee will remain broadly the same as those that the UK has had under EU membership. I know that noble Lords have suspicious minds and I say “broadly” because the UK’s independent GPA schedules incorporate technical changes to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer an EU member state, and there are now successor government entities other than those listed in Annexes 1 to 3. I have provided more details of these changes in a written response to a question asked on this issue in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, which I am happy to outline to the House.

The UK’s independent coverage schedules were shared with the International Trade Committee in 2018, along with the text of the GPA and the schedules of other GPA parties. They were then laid before Parliament for scrutiny, in line with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, and were concluded without objection in 2019. Since then, Switzerland has agreed to implement the GPA, as revised in 2012. As such, to ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny and transparency, the new Swiss schedules were laid before Parliament in October 2020. So I hope noble Lords will agree that there has been ample opportunity to scrutinise the terms of the UK’s GPA accession.

With regard to the scrutiny of our future participation in the GPA as an independent party, I again reassure noble Lords that provisions under Clause 1 are limited to a very specific set of scenarios in the GPA. I stress that this does not include any broader renegotiation of the GPA or of the UK’s market access offer to the GPA.

In the short term, the powers are required to implement an update to the list of central government entities in Annexe 1 of the UK’s GPA schedule. The update will reflect the fact that many entities have merged, moved or changed name since the list was originally written. Given the limited nature of such changes, I believe it is not appropriate to apply the affirmative procedure to Clause 1. Moreover, it is important that these necessary regulations be made swiftly because, as I often find myself saying, if there are delays, the UK could be in breach of its obligations under international law. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of this House has twice considered the power in this clause and on neither occasion saw the need to comment on the use of the negative procedure.

As we are now reaching the end of Report, I will make some concluding remarks. I think that anybody who has witnessed the way our House has dealt with this Report stage can only admire the scrutiny noble Lords have given. That scrutiny has illustrated various aspects of the Bill which were not necessarily fully visible to people at the beginning, and it has drawn people’s attention to how important trade policy now is to the United Kingdom. The fact that the United Kingdom now has full control of its trade policy will lead in the years to come to some very positive developments, as we have already seen with the free trade agreements we are negotiating.

I very much thank noble Lords for the way they have approached Report stage. This is the first Bill that I have had the pleasure of taking through the House, other than our “son of Bill”, which we did before Christmas. I thank noble Lords for the way that they have assisted me and dealt with my inadequacies from time to time, no doubt, in the way that I have presented this Bill.

I thank your Lordships for the attention you have given to this Bill and I look forward to Third Reading. With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab) [V]
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for their support for this amendment. I also thank the Minister for his honesty in pointing out our shortcomings in failing to take up these issues when we previously had the opportunity to do so; but that is another matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
49: After Schedule 5, insert the following new Schedule—
“TRADE AND AGRICULTURE COMMISSION: PUBLIC AUTHORITIES LEGISLATIONPublic records
1_ In Part 2 of the Table in paragraph 3 in Schedule 1 to the Public Records Act 1958 (definition of public records), at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.”Investigations by the Parliamentary Commissioner
2_ In Schedule 2 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 (departments subject to investigation), at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.”House of Commons disqualification
3_ In Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 (bodies of which members are disqualified), at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.”Northern Ireland Assembly disqualification
4_ In Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 (bodies of which members are disqualified), at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.”Freedom of information
5_ In Part 6 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (public authorities to which this Act applies), at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.”Public sector equality duty
6_ In Part 1 of Schedule 19 to the Equality Act 2010 (authorities subject to the public sector equality duty), in the group of entries under the heading “Industry, Business, Finance, etc”, at the appropriate place insert—“Trade and Agriculture Commission.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would provide the Schedule introduced by the amendment adding a new clause called “Trade and Agriculture Commission: further provision”.
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Moved by
50: In the Title, line 2, after “it;” insert “to make provision about the Trade and Agriculture Commission;”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would amend the long title to reflect new provision about the Trade and Agriculture Commission.