Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I am glad to have this opportunity to say a few words about these two amendments. I can be a bit simpler than I had intended to be because my noble friend and the movers of the amendments say that these are probing amendments. To that extent, I want to add one or two questions of my own; I look to my noble friend the Minister for his response.

I have a feeling that, once again, these are amendments that fall into the category of trying to put into statute that Ministers should not do things that they do not wish to do. I am not quite sure why that is necessary. In this particular instance, the amendment proposes—in a number of areas relating to the environment, animal welfare and SPS—to take out of the hands of Ministers the business of negotiating the nature of the trade agreements that we are to enter into, largely tying the hands of Ministers. Ministers have been immensely clear, repeatedly, about their intention not to enter into trade agreements the effect of which would be to dilute the standards applicable by us in this country in all these respects.

What we have here says, in effect, that when we seek to enter into any agreement with other countries, we have an extraterritorial application of own standards to them. I fear that, in practice, that would mean an inability on the part of the United Kingdom Government to enter into trade negotiations with countries that apply different standards to our own. I am not sure that the signatories to the amendments have addressed the issue. They talk simply in terms of the impact in this country of the import of goods that are subject to different standards. That is a matter of domestic legislation; that is something we can stop. There is absolutely nothing that requires us to import goods that are produced to animal welfare standards that are different to and lower than our own, or that have environmental consequences that we would not accept. We are perfectly free to say no to that. The implication of these amendments, however, goes beyond that to the idea that we should not enter into trade agreements with countries that supply standards that are not our own.

I am not sure that noble Lords necessarily need to answer this, but I am not sure where the words “or higher than” have come from. What is this international trade commission supposed to do? Should it look at our standards and say, “They’re not good enough. We are going to apply higher standards to other countries than we apply to ourselves”, and seek to enforce them through the terms of an international trade agreement that we enter into with them? That seems inherently and deeply unlikely.

Finally, it was asserted by the noble Lords who put their names to the amendments that this amendment would put in the Bill something that is primary legislation and is therefore wholly applicable. What they are talking about are standards. They are not talking about regulations. In truth, what really matters is the implementation of international trade agreements in the form of regulations. For example, in a later debate, we will talk, I hope, about the implementation of our unilateral scheme of preferences with developing and least-developed countries, many of whom would find it intensely difficult to maintain standards—for example, of animal welfare or food safety and traceability—comparable to our own.

Is it noble Lords’ intention that the international trade commission should require that such regulations should have the same standards built into them, and that we would not accept goods from those countries if they were incompatible with the standards set by the ITC? That is not what these amendments say because they talk about international trade agreements. There is no international trade agreement required for us to offer unilateral preferences to these countries; therefore, perhaps it is their intention simply to exclude developing and least-developed countries from the issues they talk about. I do not think that that is their intention, but that is not the effect of their amendments.

I suggest that, in so far as these are probing amendments, let us recognise that there are some glaring deficiencies. If we come back, as I know we will on Report, to the question of how we maintain our standards in this country, let us think carefully about how we do it and recognise, with a degree of humility, that international trade agreements should not be a mechanism by which we seek to apply extraterritorial jurisdiction for UK standards to other countries throughout the world.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I will take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in a moment. In the meantime, I would like to say what a pleasure it has been to work with the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh, Lady Henig and Lady Ritchie. I am delighted to support these two amendments.

I really congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. It is almost like having a third member of the Green group sometimes. I am sure that she hates that thought and that the Minister might as well. It has been quite a slog for us during this Bill. We have repetitively talked about these issues and it is getting a tad boring.

This amendment is a mechanism to maintain trade standards that are as high or higher than domestic UK standards. For the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that means that it is okay to trade with countries that have higher standards, even though they are not the same as our standards; that is the point of this part of the amendment. He asked why this is necessary. It is necessary because we simply do not trust the Government. If he can put his hand on his heart and say that he trusts the Government—go on; no?—I will be astonished. We have fantastic Ministers here—we even have a fantastic government team—but we do not trust the Government.

This amendment addresses the criticisms raised in previous iterations of the Bill, when noble Lords suggested that defining UK standards and equivalent standards would be a difficult legislative exercise. The amendment would create a specific body to undertake that exercise, and would grant it the necessary resources to do so. That might be a bit of a sticking point but, quite honestly, it is possible to move resources around, so I do not see that as an essential problem.

My colleagues, the three noble Baronesses, have covered almost every aspect on which I should have liked to speak, so all I will say is: will the Minister commit to working with us, perhaps to find a compromise amendment ahead of Report? Otherwise, there will the inevitable Division and government defeat, which will obviously be quite exciting for many of us but probably less so for the Minister and his team. So it would be wonderful if we could see a positive way forward.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, first, I want to associate myself with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lansley. I agreed with absolutely everything that he said.

It should be up to the Secretary of State to decide whether she needs any advice on standards or the criteria to be adopted. But, of course, this amendment is not about giving advice; it is about imposing criteria on the Government. Even if it does not cross the line, it is getting very close to interfering with the Government’s use of the royal prerogative in negotiating trade deals.

As noble Lords will be aware, there is already an extensive array of bodies—the Strategic Trade Advisory Group and individual trade advisory groups with extensive memberships—advising the Secretary of State. The only purpose of this amendment is to try to impose something on the Government. Yet again we hear something that we have heard before in Committee; this amendment is coming forward because “We don’t trust the Government to do the right thing”. I have to say to noble Lords that Governments do not legislate because noble Lords opposite do not trust them. Noble Lords must accept the Government’s assurances as they are given.

I will just say something on the Dimbleby report, because we have heard a lot about it both here and in relation to the Agriculture Bill. As I understand it, this is a draft report; it is not yet final. The Government have not made any response so far, and do not intend to do so until after the final version. It would be extraordinary to try to legislate in this Bill for policy that is not yet made. I accept that this is a probing amendment today, but I hope my noble friend will not press it again on Report.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 77 in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Kramer. I also support Amendment 83A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.

We have had lots of opportunities in this debate, and have rehearsed the environmental aspects at great length, but it is good to have another opportunity to remind the Minister of the strength of feeling on this issue. It is worth saying again that nothing is in a box, and so it is not appropriate to talk about trade and trade policy as only an economic manoeuvre. Trade has a huge impact on every aspect of our lives, from the price of tomatoes to how much pollution gets washed into our seas, and so we must be very responsible when we are a trading partner.

The Institute for Government, which calls itself

“the leading think tank working to make government more effective”

has raised some problems concerning our national environmental sustainability. It has been a year since we signed up to a zero-carbon target and we have just over a year until we host COP 26, when we will be held accountable for our progress, or lack of it, on the environment. At the moment, the UK is a long way off track, and there is no credible plan for meeting that zero-carbon target. Trade will be crucial in helping us to meet it. We have reduced emissions, particularly in the power sector, but emissions now need to fall in much more difficult sectors where progress has stalled. This will go to the heart of people’s lives. It is for us to ensure that we achieve these things, not from a point of view of some imaginary global perspective, but for the here and now, for everybody’s lives in the UK and globally.

The various impacts of climate change, including hotter summers and more severe flooding, have barely been acknowledged by this Government. A local firefighter recently told me that they now spend more time dealing with floods than with fires, yet the Government do not see fit to give them dedicated funding for that. This is a Government who are unable to see the interconnectedness of everything. There has been a dire lack of political leadership, but there is a way forward if we can develop a coherent plan which includes all our trade commitments, with emissions targets for each sector of our economy. This would give businesses some certainty, which at the moment they are missing.

We also need a consistent regulatory system for each sector, co-ordinated work across the whole of government —I nearly laughed when I said that—minimising the costs of transition to a zero-carbon economy and consent by public and politicians. That means being transparent and explaining what we are going to do, so that there is buy-in from everybody.

Finally, there must be effective scrutiny. When there is no scrutiny, mistakes are made. Scrutiny is what this House is for. We do the effective scrutiny to try to prevent the Government from making some gross errors.

This amendment would be a welcome addition to the Bill, but it needs the binding force of some of the amendments discussed earlier. This is an opportunity for the Minister to detail exactly how the Government will analyse the environmental impacts and obligations of trade agreements.

Lord Judd Portrait Lord Judd (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this is an important amendment. On matters of the environment, there has been a lot of rhetoric and aspirational thought. There are international agreements to which we are, I hope, firmly signed up. However, the point about moving forward on the environment is that we need muscle. We should be talking far more about how our trade policy can assist in fulfilling our obligations under existing environmental policy. It is too easy to begin a process of erosion whereby, for reasons of rationalisation or whatever, we begin to backslide. The amendment is a step towards ensuring that that cannot happen.

Part of our obligation in environmental policy is to ensure that the burdens that fall and the challenges that come to third-world countries are given pride of place. For that reason, we must regard fulfilling our obligations towards third-world countries as very much part of fulfilling our environmental obligations. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for having introduced this amendment and it will certainly have my support.