Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 6th Jan 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-III Third marshalled list for Report - (22 Dec 2020)
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. I speak to Amendments 20 and 22 in this group. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, moved Amendment 20, and I fully support her and others in ensuring that imports will meet the current principal standards on food safety, the environment and animal welfare.

We have had numerous direct debates about ensuring that these issues remain at the forefront of the Government’s commitments to the public. It is, however, vital that in order to trade with least developed countries and encourage their entrepreneurial skills, our standards do not act as a blockage to those countries. At the same time, it is important for public confidence that food safety standards are maintained and animal welfare is not compromised. We are, after all, a nation of animal lovers.

Cross-party Amendment 22, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, also mirrors debates that took place during the passage of the Agriculture Bill. It is an extremely important amendment to ensure that Parliament is fully involved in ensuring that standards affected by international trade agreements are maintained at our current high levels.

Members of Parliament are elected to ensure the well-being of their constituents in a wide variety of areas, and it is simply unacceptable for them to be excluded from debating trade agreements that could have a dramatic impact on local businesses and their constituents. Similarly, the upper Chamber, while not currently elected, has a wealth of expertise and knowledge that can be brought to bear to enhance future trade agreements, where necessary.

Issues of food safety, quality, hygiene and traceability are essential not only to protect consumers but to ensure a level playing field for our farmers and food producers. It is important for human rights and equalities to be included, especially women’s and children’s rights along with other classifications under the Human Rights Act of 1998.

The devolved Administrations should not be an afterthought but should be consulted at an early stage and able to express their view on trade agreements that affect them. The relevant committees of both Houses, including the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, will also have a view.

As we move forward with the continuing process of separating ourselves from the rest of Europe and bringing the UK closer to other countries in the world, standards and scrutiny will be important to maintain the confidence of the public, business and our other partners, some remaining in the EU. This amendment gives the reassurance that is required for this to happen. I fully support these two amendments, and I will support Amendment 22 should the House vote in the virtual Lobby.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I expect that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, knows what I am about to say about her Amendment 20, which is yet another attempt to hardwire the maintenance of UK standards into statute.

Time and time again the Government have said that they have no intention of lowering standards. The noble Baroness has usually replied that she does not trust the Government. I hope she will accept that amendments to legislation are not customarily made in your Lordships’ House in order to confirm what is already government policy, especially when it has been repeated at the Dispatch Box numerous times.

I can levy the same criticism at Amendment 22, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and others, but my main reason for putting my name down to speak on this group is because I think that Amendment 22 is quite extraordinary. There are certainly examples of codes of practice required by statute, and some also require approval by Parliament, but as far as I am aware, there is no precedent for an Act requiring one Minister to set out how that Minister or any other Minister must behave. The codes of practice that exist are usually intended to complement often complex legislation to guide those who need to implement it. I believe that they have never been used as instructions to Ministers on what to do, and I do not believe that we should start to do that now.

I also remind noble Lords that the negotiation of international treaties is firmly within the royal prerogative. I believe that Amendment 22 would fetter the royal prerogative, and apart from anything else it should not be pursued on those grounds

The Government have said that they will maintain standards, but Amendment 22 just tries to tie Ministers up in knots. We should just let them get on with their jobs. I hope that noble Lords will not support these amendments if the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, or the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, choose to press them.