Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 29th Sep 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
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-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Grand Committee - (29 Sep 2020)
Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I am delighted to support Amendment 33 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I am a firm believer in the need for democratic oversight of key procurement areas in international trade agreements. As other noble Lords have pointed out, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave a comprehensive rationale for the amendment and why it should be placed on the face of the Bill.

Many Members of your Lordships’ House are deeply concerned about human rights violations in China and feel that, if it is going to be involved in critical infrastructure procurement deals, the deals have to be subject to legislative rigour by way of primary legislation and, maybe, to regulation by secondary legislation. It is well worth noting the commentary from the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, earlier today.

Having done some research in support of Amendment 33, I note that there have been considerable abuses by the Chinese against the Uighurs, as has already been referred to. There has been forced sterilisation of Uighur women, organ harvesting and detention of Uighur people into classified re-education camps. In fact, earlier this year Dominic Raab said there were “gross and egregious” human rights abuses. In view of what the Foreign Secretary and the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes—a former Governor of Hong Kong—have said, surely, based on their evidence and knowledge, it would be prudent to accept such an amendment in the Bill. The fact that they have also banned the Uighurs, who are Muslims, from fasting during Ramadan is a gross infringement of human rights and civil liberties. I have no hesitation in supporting this amendment and urge the Minister to give grave and positive consideration to ensuring that it is placed in the Bill.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I note that a number of noble Lords say that they are “rising” to speak to amendments in this Committee. Under the rules that have been set for us, when we are in the Chamber physically we still rise to speak; when we are in Grand Committee, the new rules say we must not rise to speak. We are positively prohibited from doing so. The authorities have not yet taken it on themselves to pronounce whether those speaking from a location other than the Palace of Westminster must rise or not, but I observe that those I have seen beamed in have not been rising while they say they are. I make a plea to return to normal language in how we describe what we are doing in this Committee.

Turning to the amendments, I was going to make the point, made so ably by my noble friend Lord Lansley, that these are continuity agreements and so the amendments that start off by trying to constrain regulations made under Clause 2(1) confine themselves to continuity agreements and no more. There are a lot of words that will have no real impact at all. In terms of continuity agreements, we should judge whether something is needed in the Bill by reference to what the Government have done in the continuity agreements that have already been agreed and been through the parliamentary process.

I do not think any noble Lords have raised any concerns whatever under the various headings included in these amendments in relation to those continuity agreements. I see no need to amend this Bill regarding continuity agreements for the matters that seem to be exercising noble Lords. Those associated with these amendments may well wish to reconstitute them to seek to deal with non-continuity agreements—that is, free trade agreements on an ongoing basis. I will therefore offer one or two comments on the amendments themselves.

Amendment 11 seems remarkably vague or difficult to interpret. There are a number of references to specific matters in international law and conventions, but there are also some quite loose words about children’s and women’s rights which are not confined to particular conventions or obligations. I suggest that they are too vague to be left in any amendment. I also note in Amendment 11 that we have introduced

“the primacy of human rights law”.

I do not think that there is primacy for any particular law or that we have a hierarchy of laws, whether established in this country or internationally. The wording of Amendment 11 is problematic.