9 Earl of Sandwich debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Tue 15th Dec 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 7th Dec 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Thu 8th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 1st Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 2nd Apr 2019
Wed 25th Oct 2017
European Union (Approvals) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords

Human Rights Due Diligence

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said in my initial Answer, I agree with my noble friend. Human rights abuses are a wide and varied issue, which is why the UK Government prefer the approach of encouraging businesses to follow the voluntary framework of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the rainforest needs urgent protection—we all know that, as does the Minister. The Government have already made good progress with the Environment Bill, but how will they enforce compliance; for example, on companies which are not in the Retail Soy Group or which do not intend to convert to sustainable products? Does the Minister agree that any UK financial services which clearly support the production or trading of forest risk commodities would be acting illegally and should be caught by Schedule 16 to the Bill?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Earl is perhaps getting a bit ahead of himself, as we are still considering the Environment Bill—it is not in law yet. When it is, as I hope it will be, details on the enforcement regime will be subject to further consultation and regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure so that the House can debate them fully.

Turkey: Free Trade Agreement

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the IAC itself have already pointed out flaws in this agreement: no assessment of the effects on business of a transition from the customs union; no subsidies chapter; and the need to review TBTs and rules of origin.

I shall focus briefly on the absence of human rights. Turkey has a historic role in Europe; some even still see her as a potential member of the EU following the long tradition begun by Atatürk. More recently, President Erdoğan’s repressive Government have made that impossible because of their flagrant abuse of human rights and imprisonment of opposition leaders, activists, journalists and others.

The TUC has called for a suspension of the trade deal and our own IAC has received written evidence from trade unions. According to Unite:

“Over 160,000 judges, teachers, police, and civil servants have been suspended or dismissed, together with about 77,000 formally arrested.”


These figures may be out of date because a lot of prisoners have been released due to the pandemic but the European Commission’s Turkey 2020 Report came down heavily on Ankara, saying that there had been “serious backsliding” on the rule of law and fundamental rights. It mentioned the “deterioration of democracy”, the exclusion of civil society and new problems with refugees. That report may have prompted the recent promises from President Erdoğan to write a new constitution, apparently turning over yet another new leaf. We on the committee were also concerned to hear that Turkey has withdrawn from the Council of Europe convention on violence against women, signed in Istanbul; this issue came up again in our debates on the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Despite all this, human rights and workers’ rights are unspecified in this agreement for some reason, which must be a bad mistake. Our committee report was too polite to insist on a more specific reference; we simply asked the Government to make greater use of the review clause to update the agreement and introduce a full section on human rights.

There seems to be no argument for treating Turkey any differently from other countries with which we have new trade deals—on this, I part company with the previous speaker—and I hope that the Minister will agree that this is a lacuna. Therefore, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said, we look forward to hearing exactly what the Government’s negotiating objectives are in the new agreement.

Economic Partnership Agreement: Kenya

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, as a rollover agreement, the UK-Kenya EPA has had rather a bumpy ride through Parliament, both here and in Kenya. This stems mainly from the cavalier treatment of the other EAC members, which are assumed to go along with it since they already benefit from LDC and EBA preferences.

Like other members of the IAC, I have been especially concerned about whether any countries were consulted as individual nations, as well as via the EAC itself. Nairobi has always had the monopoly of communications, as well as of trade, in east Africa; that is a fact of life. But Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and even South Sudan, and the new applicants DRC and Somalia, all have strong interests in trading with the UK. They do not want any disruption. Even in Nairobi, several MPs complained that their Government had failed to consult fully with their own stakeholders on the agreement, with the result that parliamentary debate was held up and the deadline for ratification missed.

There were some deep-seated civil society and farming concerns that the EPA, like its EU-ACP predecessor, tended to treat Kenya as a supplier of raw materials and primary products, rather than encouraging its SMEs and businesses to develop its manufacturing base. For some, this recalls the UK’s neo-colonial links with Africa and is still a long way short of the vision of fair and sustainable trade that helps the poor. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, made powerful points on that as well.

There is a real risk that the EPA could destabilise the EAC itself by negotiating with only Kenya and the bloc rather than with individual members. The community was founded in 1999 and is still the strongest regional association in Africa. It held its 21st summit last weekend. It has achieved a degree of integration, but its members still control their own foreign policy. The Minister has claimed that the DIT kept in touch with individual states, but perhaps he could give details today. The fact that they have been formally invited to join the agreement after the event hardly makes a difference if they each have different policy objectives.

I do not blame Brexit for all this directly, but I can point a finger at the last-minute arrangements devised by the Government to patch up a lot of these important trade agreements. The Minister might argue that this was a cunning plan to ensure that the agreement went through just in time, but most people would think, and perhaps Ministers would admit, that it was a messy consequence of doing things in too much of a hurry.

I welcome the noble Lord, Lord McDonald, to our Cross Benches, and thank him for his unambiguous support for our aid programme.

Trade Bill

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 7 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-I Marshalled list for Report - (2 Dec 2020)
Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, there are very few doubters about climate change left in Parliament. I salute the efforts of the Government to reach the targets originally set out in Paris five years ago, but we all need to keep up the pressure. In Glasgow next year we will know whether the world as a whole has a chance of meeting the targets. The indications are that it will not unless considerable efforts are made by the USA, India and some countries in Europe which still depend on fossil fuels.

I was encouraged to hear about the forthcoming agreement with India, a country with which we will undoubtedly work well and closely on climate change. I support this amendment, which has been ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. It derives from my discussions about the recent UK-Japan agreement. I felt that the DIT was merely repeating the mantras of climate change. The EM said all the right things, but they are not in the agreement and nowhere are the parties committed to actual change. Indeed, the DIT has since admitted that the Japan agreement actually means that more greenhouse gases will arise from more economic activity. I had intended to say that in the debate on the agreement, but I was not able to take part in it.

It would have been good to see more practical examples, more encouragement of alternative energy sources such as electric vehicles, which were specifically requested in the evidence from the North East England Chamber of Commerce, as the Minister will remember, on behalf of car manufacturers in the area who will stand to benefit from this directly. The industry needs some encouragement. Does the Minister accept that there needs to be a lot more engagement on this issue in future agreements?

I spoke in Committee about new opportunities that are coming up in New Zealand and beyond, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Prime Minister is now sounding much more serious about climate change—inshallah—and that new enthusiasm should be reflected in all our trade agreements.

Finally, I was cheered to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, in his usual form on the previous amendment. He knows that, at this time, I am very sympathetic.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I will be brief. I shall speak to Amendment 14 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Oates. It is a privilege to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, whose knowledge and experience is so impressive on these matters.

The issue of climate change is dominating our lives. It is already, quite rightly, impacting on the way we live, and will do so increasingly. The Government have set ambitious targets, as has already been mentioned, to reduce carbon emissions by banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions nationally by 2050. In the farming sector, the NFU has set a net zero target by 2040. These are challenging targets, but it is my impression that the farming sector, businesses generally and the wider public are now willing to try to rise to the challenge and find solutions in order to adapt and thus reduce our carbon footprint.

It would be bizarre indeed if, having committed to meet these targets, we completely ignored the carbon impact of imported products. Meeting the climate change targets will not be achieved without significant investment and added costs on the part of businesses and disruption to our lives generally. It would be inconsistent to place domestic industries in an uncompetitive position by importing products that are not subject to the same ambitions. Not only could that negate progress, it could lead to the undermining of innovation and investment, which would be to the detriment of the UK economy.

If we do not accept this principle, the Government risk being accused of delivering conflicting messages: a commitment to the climate change agenda and taking a leading role in COP 26 on the one hand and being willing to undermine the progress of our domestic industries by allowing the import of products that are not produced to the same ambitious standards on the other. I hope that the Minister will consider this important amendment.

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In practice, Amendment 16 would make life very complicated for the administration of negotiations for trade agreements. For example, I am not at all sure that I understand why, in Amendment 16, the least-developed and lower-middle income countries are identified. When I turn to the framework under the OECD and its recommendations, up to January 2019 it related to least-developed countries and the highly indebted poor countries. From January 2019, it was extended to include other low-income countries and those eligible only for financing from international development assistance. There is a series of categories of countries, which has not been reproduced in this amendment. I am not quite sure that I understand exactly who we are talking about. However, I am pretty sure that it would become highly prescriptive and very difficult for us to administer international trade agreements if, by reference to a moving and complex structure, we determined which countries were eligible to have this prescription relating to them placed in statute.
Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, as we have heard more than once, the Government are already committed to providing untied aid under the DAC agreement from nearly 20 years ago. However, to answer the points made just now by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes: the Government have become a little ambiguous on aid legislation in relation to the 0.7% target. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is quite right to raise the issue at this stage. There is little doubt that the merger of DfID into the FCDO will have an impact on the integrity of our aid programme. It is now a stated policy that aid has become an instrument of diplomacy, and so why not of trade?

When it comes to fair trade, there can be little confusion, but with large infrastructure projects, there is a distinct motive to involve British traders and investors, even if that is not in the best interests of the poor. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, said, the names of Pergau and Narmada come to mind. The CDC will have to tread carefully from now on if it is to meet its declared target of poverty reduction.

Sustainable development goal 17 on trade was discussed earlier in Committee. It is one of the most intriguing development goals because it is both helpful and obstructive. That is because liberalisation opens up trade but it can also bring greater wealth to a minority and lead to the exploitation of poorer countries. The purpose of the SDG is to reinforce the longer-term concept of sustainable development. In more practical terms, apart from any trading concessions available, this means working closely in partnership with the country with which you are trading to ensure that the arrangement is fair. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has given us examples of unfair trade.

There are many examples of the enforcement of our own standards in developing countries, such as in food or textiles, to meet the demands of our importers and consumers. The Minister himself mentioned the negative effects on poor countries that can arise from overly high standards. Supply chains are now revealing more overt examples of trafficking and exploitation, perhaps indirectly, by corporations. What protection will there be for those countries after we leave the Cotonou agreement which protects many African, Caribbean and Pacific countries? The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, knows all about this. He has already taken us into the detail of GSP, GSP+ and the EBA—all of the things that are available to the least developed countries. This is not for today, but as we withdraw from the EU, especially now, I hope that we will come to on to these questions as well.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD) [V]
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I wish to speak briefly in support of these amendments. It is bad enough that the UK has cut its aid budget by potentially £30 billion over this Parliament without legitimate or honest reasons, but just as the Government are giving a boost to the better-off to eat out at home, and possibly accelerating the spread of Covid-19 in the process—while being reluctant to extend the provision of free school meals to poorer children—so they have prioritised boosting defence spending by 0.2% of GNI and cutting aid to the poorest people in the world by precisely 0.2% of GNI.

These amendments rightly probe the Government’s real intentions on aid and seeking to hold to the high standards of the past 20 years. I think that many of us are not as sanguine as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the intentions of the Government. They are unclear and on the basis of betrayed promises made over a matter of weeks, so we need some answers. I am pleased to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who has been consistent in his campaign to ensure that sustainable development will deliver for the poor and that the Government should explain their policy clearly.

Put simply, UK development assistance has been untied and we have all agreed to that. Moreover, it has been poverty-focused. The former Prime Minister, David Cameron, co-chaired the UN’s high-level panel on the sustainable development goals. It set the objective of ending absolute poverty and leaving no one behind. The UK’s contribution to achieving that will now be substantially reduced. These amendments seek to ensure that UK aid will still prioritise poverty reduction and not be used as a lever to extract concessions from poorer developing countries for the UK’s mercantile or political advantage.

With a few exceptions, such as delivering emergency aid into conflict zones, the UK’s engagement in developing countries is with the consent of the Governments of those countries. This gives scope for dialogue about good governance and agreement to work together to build capacity to manage programmes. It allows for honest discussion about problems of corruption, so it is not as if there is no engagement. It is not simply spending on a poverty programme without any government-to-government contact. That is what constitutes soft power. Contrary to what critics assert, aid programmes have contributed to the substantial reduction in poverty over recent decades. The challenge now is to sustain that progress in a post-pandemic world. I cannot think of a worse time for what has become one of the world’s leading aid countries to give such a public declaration of its intention not to be the lead contributor to solving that problem.

We all know that prior to the International Development Act, as has been quoted by other speakers in this debate, our aid budget was misused to secure contracts for British companies, not always on the best terms or for the best purpose of benefiting the recipient countries. We surely do not want to return to those bad old days. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, says that the Government have no intention of doing so, but the Government had no intention of cutting aid or of rolling DfID into the Foreign Office. Frankly, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley: we cannot trust any of this Government’s assurances on aid.

Whatever kind of Brexit emerges from these tedious negotiations, this Brexit Government will want to parade a succession of trade deals. The more important and powerful the partner with which we are negotiating, the harder it will be to secure agreement and the more likely it is that the UK will make concessions that are greater than those made when we benefited from the negotiating strength of the European Union. In that situation, the temptation to pressurise economically weaker and poorer countries could intensify accordingly.

The term “aid for trade” is open to a range of interpretations. In a proper development context, it should mean helping a country achieve standards that enable it to compete successfully in export markets. It should not mean securing concessions or trade-offs in exchange for details of access to the UK market, such as, “We will buy your flowers if you support us with your vote on the Security Council or the General Assembly, or if you buy our expensive digital equipment or services.” If it were as blatant as that, it would contravene the DAC rules and the Government would struggle to achieve even 0.5%.

Alternatives could be offering aid in return for mining concessions or arms sales. If our aid is being cut, it is more important than ever that it goes unconditionally to help alleviate poverty and promote sustainable livelihoods, and enables countries to meet the challenges of pro-poor development: to end poverty and leave no one behind. To date, the UK has been leading the way on untying aid. It will be a sad confirmation of a new self-serving foreign policy if the next few years see a dramatic reduction in not only the amount of aid that we deliver but the quality and direction of the aid that we give.

The question is simple: is the overriding purpose and impact of the UK’s official development assistance directed at poverty reduction and sustainability, or is it directly to further the foreign policy interests of a country reverting to British exceptionalism?

Trade Bill

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, although I cannot accept her diagnosis of this being an attack on democracy. I shall make just three short points, because we do not want this to go on all day.

First, noble Lords who have brought forward these amendments have not adduced any evidence as to why they are needed. The core procedures for the handling of treaties have served this country well. The Ponsonby rule, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, reminded us of again today, is now enshrined in CRaG. As I said, no practical issues have been put forward for these amendments being needed. The Government have responded to the desire, as expressed by both Houses of Parliament, for more information and more involvement in the processes of scrutiny of trade treaties, most recently in the latest Ministerial Written Statement. I think that I am the only noble Lord speaking here today who has not seen a copy of that Statement but I am sure that it is splendid.

My second point is on the royal prerogative and prerogative power. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lansley that, despite Amendment 6 saying that it does not seek to override or diminish prerogative power, its effect is that, in practical terms, it does so—in particular, in relation to the approval of the negotiating objectives, which is not part of our current processes—and could easily restrict the prerogative power available to government. That is why I think that the Constitution Committee of your Lordships’ House did not recommend that we go down that route.

My third point is on parliamentary accountability. Both amendments in this group are predicated on a view that parliamentary accountability requires legislation to make it effective. That is plainly not in accord with our parliamentary history. It is also, I submit, a dangerous route to go down. The strength of the UK’s parliamentary system is its capacity to evolve constantly, as we have seen in relation to free trade agreements with the way in which the Government have been open to involving Parliament increasingly and in different ways, including through engagement with committees.

If we wrote too much into legislation, that could work against the flexibility that is the hallmark of our system and has served us well, in particular over the last couple of years. I believe that that could end up being Parliament’s loss at the end of the day. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, referred to the constructive partnership that has been emerging between his committee on treaties and the Government, and the practical ways in which the work of his excellent committee is being helped to be effective. I have to say to noble Lords that the more you codify, the more it is less likely that constructive partnership becomes the hallmark of an ongoing approach. Noble Lords really cannot have it both ways.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I also find Amendment 6 rather severe: not only is it asking for accountability to Parliament but it challenges the entire CRaG process. However, I accept that there is strong public feeling on this, which is confronting the Government’s post-Brexit policy directly and the political impetus towards global free trade. Many stakeholders and charities have already commented on several FTAs currently passing through Parliament; they want to be sure that there are safeguards throughout the process of scrutiny, and I understand that. I agree in principle with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the right reverend Prelate. It is an impressive spectrum of opinion.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, refers to CRaG as minimalist, and he may well be right. However, I said earlier in our proceedings on the Bill that I had accepted the Government’s view that they had been flexible and that CRaG was, for the time being, fit for purpose and need not be altered yet—at least not radically. We have made a good start. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, uses the word “consensus”; I admire what I know of the European Parliament’s scrutiny processes, especially its opening up to civil society in all member countries, but I have misgivings about a debate on the objectives of every FGA, because I can guess how much it would slow down our own process.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made an important point about domestic legislation, but all this adds to the CRaG process. It is desirable, and there may be a time for it, but as we are entering a new era of trade agreements, we should wait to see how our existing process will cope with so much demand. Do we have the resources to do this? I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has taken that on board. We have already missed the boat with a row of important new agreements, either past or imminent. I suggest instead that CRaG and the issue of 21 days should be reviewed in a year’s time. So while I am sympathetic to the amendment I may have to abstain on the vote.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. No? Then I call the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.

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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, my first point on these amendments is that I am fundamentally in favour of trade. It is a huge part of our history as a nation and is certainly part of our ambitions for our future outside the EU. Being in favour of trade does not mean that I am against human rights, but I believe that a mature trading nation has to be able to balance competing interests; for example, the desire for all nations to uphold the highest standards of behaviour towards their citizens against the economic well-being of our own nation.

Human rights abuses are not a black and white issue. At one extreme, there is appalling abuse, such as the treatment of the Uighurs in China—though we must not forget that China contests the facts. At the other extreme, there might be a nation state that has never committed a human rights abuse, but I am not sure one exists. The UK, for example, has been founding wanting by the European Court of Human Rights on several occasions, and our own courts have found the same. Importantly, there is a spectrum of grey where the difficult task of responsible government arises.

Both Amendments 8 and 10 envisage using the courts to decide whether a human rights abuse is one that could, in effect, override or cancel the free trade agreement. In the case of Amendment 10 in the name of my noble friend Lord Blencathra, this is explicit, but in the case of Amendment 8, the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury—I think that I am quoting him correctly—said that the Government’s determinations under his new clause could be challenged by the courts. The courts in the UK may be good at determining whether human rights abuses have been committed in this country, but I do not believe that they are well placed to make any such determination in relation to overseas territories.

Furthermore, both amendments open our courts to vexatious claims by human rights activists of all kinds. I have a vision of our hard-pressed judicial system being swamped by the kind of litigation that is bound to follow if these amendments become law. It is not wise to invite our courts into the territory that is properly the domain of the Government’s foreign and trade policy; that would be a very poor outcome.

Amendment 8, unlike Amendment 10, does try to restrict itself to “serious violations”, but it defines them widely in subsection (5)(d) as

“other major violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

I do not know what that means and I do not want our courts getting sucked into these sorts of issues, which are, inevitably, political judgments at the end of the day.

I have one fundamental objection to these amendments: they attack free trade agreements only. They do nothing about trade that carries on on WTO terms. We do not have a free trade agreement with China but we certainly trade with it. If noble Lords think that passing either of these amendments, or Amendment 9 in the next group, will do anything for the Uighurs in China, they are not being honest with themselves. We should be wary of using our power to legislate to do no more than virtue-signal.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 8. We have been privileged to belong to the European Union and follow the Copenhagen principles, as they were once called. We followed these rules as EU members; they will now be translated into our own legislation. Even in the EU, there are countries where the rule of law falls short, yet we still trade with them. Beyond that, how can we influence and do business with the more serious human rights offenders? Should we bring them aid and trade on the grounds that, in time, that might lead to a culture that could introduce new ideas and alleviate human rights offences? It is an outdated, even arrogant, position—I am not sure that it worked with Macaulay and Curzon in India—but we still argue it. Sometimes, we have to go further and resort to sanctions.

On the International Agreements Committee, I have argued for a stronger reference to human rights in the Explanatory Memorandum. In the past, you would see the phrase “no significant human rights considerations”, but I know from the Minister’s reassurance that the FCDO has been working hard on this and things such as trafficking. The rollover agreements reiterate the EU clauses, including protection for minorities. Can the Minister confirm that there has been further progress there as far as the new free trade agreements are concerned?

Trade Bill

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 8th October 2020

(3 years, 9 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-V Fifth marshalled list for Grand Committee - (8 Oct 2020)
Lord Inglewood Portrait Lord Inglewood (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I speak in support of all the amendments in this group. This is perhaps a paradox, as they may—to some extent—be mutually exclusive. They also touch on a number of other amendments on the agenda of today’s proceedings.

As I said in Committee on Tuesday, the congruence of leaving the European Union and the royal prerogative in a world which is very different from the 1960s and 1970s, leaves much domestic policy, in practice if not in theory, beyond Parliament’s reach. Since the United Kingdom Government are accountable to the United Kingdom Parliament for all their activities, both inside and outside the jurisdiction, Parliament has a genuine locus to impose—or at least place—a framework around government activities abroad. These activities directly determine what happens in this country.

Now that we have left the European Union, we are in reality—to put it in crude terms—tarting our way around the foreign and trade ministries of the world in search of improved and new agreements. This is an inherent consequence of Brexit. In the circumstances, it is the only sensible response to where we find ourselves. I have no complaints about this, though being a suppliant does not necessarily enhance one’s negotiating strength.

My complaint is about the goods we have for sale. Everything is more or less on the table, as is generally the case in the grubby world of politics and, for that matter, in the marketplace. Almost everything is for sale unless it is expressly stated that it is not. There are some things which should be stated as non-negotiable from the outset. I disagree with my noble friend Lord Lansley and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Smith. In a negotiation, there is a difference between boundaries and aspirations. This is illustrated by the slightly surprising combination of the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Forsyth and Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, signing the same amendment which we shall discuss later in the passage of this Committee.

Sometimes it is appropriate to simply say “no” as, for example, in the case of the topical, but historic—and not completely analogous—piece of legislation which ended slavery in the British Empire. There was no more argument after that. In the real world, a policy statement leaves the matter in question on the table and hence in play. As a number of noble Lords have said, the CRaG Act is weak and reactive, not proactive. I believe a strong framework is needed around all the Government’s activities in this area, as these amendments propose. At this stage, I am not concerned by the minutiae. Others in this debate know much more about this than I do.

No doubt, the Government will say that they need flexibility to negotiate. They do. All Governments do, wherever they are and however they operate. They should not cross our domestically generated red lines. This was what taking back control was all about. It is the logical corollary of Brexit.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 35 on parliamentary scrutiny. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for tabling it. Listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, I felt she was a little bit nostalgic for the European Parliament. That was not surprising. I have felt it too. It is not nostalgia we need but the procedure and ideas that came from the European Parliament when we are discussing CRaG. I will leave it at that.

However, I was encouraged by the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, earlier on the enhanced scrutiny process, and of course this is only the preamble for Report, which will be very important. I hope and expect that the Minister will be sympathetic to this amendment. He should be, because I believe the Government have been working hard to stretch the CRaG framework above the baseline so that they can then cover a range of issues. For example, the new FCDO is looking at improving the EMs on human rights, and in Committee we have already covered matters such as food safety, health and the environment, which are all to be covered by a sustainability EM, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. All these issues, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, so sensitively mentioned, and as the Minister knows, are of huge importance and concern to the public, and they will loom large in the US deal. I know we are dealing with Parliament now, but we are also aware of the public.

Amendments 36 to 38 are also needed because they set out the terms of the reporting arrangements required by Parliament for every relevant free trade agreement so that it can be examined and debated properly within the narrow timeframe of 21 days. I was fascinated by the conversation of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about Amendment 63, which we will come back to.

NGO and trade union interest in trade deals and fair trade these days is at a much higher technical level and, although stakeholders and civil society are consulted in advance, they also need to be properly informed after negotiations are over and as every deal passes through Parliament. That is part of the process described in these amendments. We owe a lot to Jonathan Djanogly, as has been mentioned, and while I am not sure why reporting comes up in later amendments, I support those too.

The Bill is restricted to rollover agreements, but I understand from previous ministerial replies and statements that the Government are generally and genuinely ready to listen to suggestions and, as has been said, open to improving if not amending the CRaG process. We all look forward to the Minister’s confirmation of this.

Reporting on an agreement is also important for the scrutiny committees themselves, because it is part of their mandate to follow its progress in the months following ratification. I think we were grateful for the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith. The recently concluded Japan agreement, which we will shortly all be examining, will provide the first test of these arrangements.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all concerned for contributing to this debate, which has been of a very high standard. We should all acknowledge and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, for deciding to use this opportunity to speak to the Committee about her experiences on the 2018-19 Bill. I was sorry to hear about the blood and sweat, although I can confirm that there was just as much on our side of the table as I am sure she was correct in describing was on hers. If there were any tears, I do apologise for that; we did not have those, and I am sorry if we were guilty of inflicting them.

Because we have a range of amendments here around this topic, we have a variety of suggestions for the Government to consider on how they might engage formally with Parliament. The common thread for all of them is that they build on steps already taken and, as others have said—I support this—many of these are very welcome indeed. Amendment 35 in particular sets a very high standard at the top end of the scale, where all approvals and all considerations of final remit have to be done by both Houses of Parliament, with full engagement with the devolved Administrations. There are some very good points in this amendment, which, broadly speaking, goes with the grain of where we are coming from. However, as other noble Lords have said, this may well not be the time to repeat this amendment back to the Commons, because it was considered and defeated at that stage. I take very strongly what the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, said: namely, that there are elements in what is in front of us today that would allow for some progress to be made. I hope very much that the Minister will be able to signal his willingness to engage further with us when he comes to respond.

Trade Bill

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD) [V]
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My Lords, before I start, I should apologise for any noise that may interfere. There is a demonstration outside and every now and then, the volume increases.

There are a number of amendments in this group on a broad range of environmental protections. I do not intend to speak to all of them, save to say that I support them and hope that, on Report, the movers can work together to amalgamate them satisfactorily. I will, however, single out Amendment 40 which provides for the laying before Parliament of a report assessing the impact of our environmental obligations. That will be very important.

I am going to spend the rest of my time speaking to Amendment 21, to which I have added my name. In 2015, to those of us for whom climate change represents a real and looming existential threat, the Paris Agreement was received with relief. It commits Governments to submit their national plans to cut emissions and ultimately, each party to the agreement will have to do their bit to keep the rising global temperature to well below 2 degrees centigrade and to pursue efforts to limit it further, to 1.5 degrees centigrade. International agreements are initially signed to signal intent to comply but become binding only through ratification, so it is a worry when Governments do not ratify. Seven countries have not yet ratified the agreement: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan and Eritrea.

Turkey stands out as the only member of the G20 not to have formally endorsed the deal after Russia ratified it in October 2019. Turkey is a member of the OECD, with high economic ambitions. It has very good renewable resources and therefore the potential to reduce emissions quite significantly; and yet, it still plans massive expansion of coal-fired power stations. Turkey’s emissions increased by 135% between 1990 and 2016. This cannot go on: it really must join the rest of the G20 and signal its intent to move ahead on this agenda.

I turn to the US, which is the second largest emitter after China, accounting for 13% of global emissions. The US is still on the UN list of the original 187 countries to have ratified. However, as my noble friend Lady Northover said, it began the procedure to withdraw from the accord in 2019 and will leave on 4 November this year, I believe. President Trump remains a climate change denier. No one knows what the US elections will bring, but one thing is for sure: a Biden presidency will put the world on a much safer trajectory. Let us hope that it happens, and that it is not too late for action subsequently.

In the meantime, let us make Britain’s values and priorities clear. Action on climate change is not a “nice to have” option: it is an imperative. If, next year, we are to have a successful outcome to our presidency of COP 26 and a successful presidency of the G7, we must refuse to do business with rogue states. That sounds harsh, does it not? But if I were referring to Russia or China, one would not recoil at such a statement. The fact is that we cannot tackle climate change, halt species loss and save our oceans if we have double standards.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, as a member of the new EU International Agreements Sub-Committee, I support any attempts in this debate to improve parliamentary scrutiny, although that is not the subject of this amendment. Our committee has already examined the promising Japan FTA and much of the less promising US FTA, and we are moving on to Australia, New Zealand and, beyond that, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The Government have given us plenty to think about. Of course, much hangs on the overarching EU agreement, which we all await impatiently, because it affects the success of all the others.

The Minister has already acknowledged the value of our scrutiny under CRaG and that of the Commons’ IDC. I also believe that she shares my concern that CRaG is amendable and that all these FTAs and treaties should reflect the latest thinking on such issues as human rights and the SDGs, mentioned in the previous amendment.

The Minister said on Tuesday that work is being done on supply chains. It is a learning process, and I appreciate that this Bill is about continuity agreements, which already safeguard such issues. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has reminded us of that, and the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, says that we are cluttering up the legislation. However, these issues are relevant because of the multitude of agreements on the horizon. Today’s amendments are about the environment and climate change, which are subjects of massive public concern.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said on Tuesday that we live in different times and under rules that are mainly a consequence of our long EU membership. High environmental and technical standards are what producers, traders and investors now want and expect.

We have already heard of a range of issues that constitute possible improvements, if not to this Bill then to future agreements. I recognise how difficult it is for a Government to accommodate all the interests represented, especially as they will have to be fitted to different agreements and different countries. Formal consultation with stakeholders and the public, as well as with Parliament through explanatory memorandums, correspondence and debates, is now an accepted part of CRaG procedure, and we must celebrate that.

These amendments, alongside those on international development and the SDGs, catch my attention because they are about the planet we live on. I have spent my working life learning about conditions in other countries, and it is not difficult to agree with the conservationists and the climate changers that much more must be done to adapt the world to a more carbon-free economy. When it comes to trade, the UK has a huge advantage: it is historically a famous trading nation and is one of the foremost countries adapting to climate change and acquiring scientific and technical know-how to help other countries. Non-EU agreements must surely include proper references to international obligations, as set out in these amendments.

Last week, the Commons International Trade Committee discussed the opportunities on the environment coming up in the CPTPP—the trans-Pacific partnership agreement, of which much is expected. These include not only the Paris targets, the rules governing renewable energy, carbon reduction and transport costs, but also tighter collaboration on the handling of emergencies, such as floods and forest fires, and even an environmental tax or tariff. New Zealand’s Prime Minister is a pioneer of sustainable trade. She is also critical in the developed world’s poor response to climate change. Through the CPTPP and the UN, she will no doubt offer good advice, even to Australia, on these issues.

The mutual benefits for global trade and sustainable development in trade agreements are fast coming up the agenda. As we enter a new era of free trade, the Government would do well to pay them more than lip service. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is right: it is a matter of human survival.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I first thank my noble friends, Lord Grimstone, the Minister, and Lord Younger of Leckie, together with their officials, for the time they gave me yesterday to discuss my concerns on this and other amendments.

Rather like the Agriculture Bill, we have a slight overlap of amendments. Inevitably, I am afraid that I will have to touch on Amendment 23 from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and Amendment 17, which relates to investor-state dispute settlements. I will major a bit more on those when we come to them, but they are interlinked, because of Amendments 69 and 73.

The earlier amendments, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Oates, refer to the international agreements. This is a continuity Bill, and I have little doubt that this Government—my Government—and indeed a Government in the colours of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester would abide by their international agreements. What concerns me more, however, is the wording picked by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering in Amendment 69, where she talks not of international agreements, but of

“standards established by primary and subordinate legislation in the United Kingdom”

and, in Amendment 73, where the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talks about the

“appropriate authority to take action in pursuit of the UK’s climate and environmental goals”.

I am in total support of the Government in their ambition that climate change and environmental issues should be right at the centre of our trade policy. I hope that, when he sums up, my noble friend will confirm that that is indeed the Government’s position. My noble friend Lord Grimstone told me that yesterday, but it would be nice to have it on the official record.

However, my problem lies in looking at other countries that have tried to impose stricter standards other than international agreements and then get taken to court under ISDSs. I have two examples that I will expand upon. The first is Philip Morris v Australia in 2015. Philip Morris lost that case, and rightly so, but the problem was that it cost Australia 22 million Australian dollars, which seems an unnecessary amount of money for our Government to have to fork out if they are taken to court in a similar case. The other case that I shall mention at this stage is Cargill v Mexico, where Cargill was awarded $77.3 million when it won a case against a tax on high-fructose corn syrup that was introduced to address health concerns.

Climate

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd April 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB)
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My Lords, it is true that the UK Government have been on the front foot on climate change and have commendably taken a lead internationally on the issue since the Paris agreement, but they still need reminding that the least developed countries are still suffering the worst effects and some—not just island states—face imminent threats from floods, drought and other disasters.

In 2018, we had some of the worst emergencies ever. We had some experience of it: the UK had unusual extremes of weather last year, and California’s autumn fires were catastrophic. But in the southern hemisphere, Kerala had its worst floods for more than 80 years last August, with more than 2.5 times the normal rainfall from the monsoon. More than 500 died and more than 1 million were forced from their homes, with 10,000 houses destroyed and roads damaged at a cost estimated at $3.5 billion. The warming of the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions is an obvious cause of such dramatic turns in the weather, and India is one of the countries that will suffer most.

South Africa, on the other hand, experienced three consecutive years of low rainfall, and Cape Town faced its worst drought ever a year ago. Taps ran dry in the city and residents were severely restricted. Again, scientists found that climate change made the drought three times more likely.

Argentina also ended its worst drought in 50 years last April, but the economic consequences for farmers were considerable. The soybean and corn harvests were down by 31% and 21%, and lost production cost Argentina $6 billion, plunging the country into recession. I am grateful to Christian Aid for providing those figures.

Very few people in Parliament or among the general public doubt that these major emergencies were linked to climate change, as has been reaffirmed at successive conferences. The Katowice conference in Poland made good progress last December towards implementing the Paris rulebook. In recent Westminster debates, the Government have sounded upbeat. One Minister has since even admitted that the UK will need to legislate for a net zero emissions target “at an appropriate point in the future”.

But the situation is urgent. According to Christian Aid, overall global emissions must reach zero—meaning that human activities absorb as much greenhouse gas as they release—by the middle of the century if the world is to limit warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, the target set in the 2015 Paris agreement. Next year, there will be an interim meeting in Chile, but the real decisions will have to be made very soon in Europe.

European Union (Approvals) Bill

Earl of Sandwich Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 25th October 2017

(6 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Prior of Brampton Portrait Lord Prior of Brampton
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, for their broad support for the Bill. I suspect that the noble Baroness knows more about the history of those treaties than I do. I do not know why we require primary legislation: she may have a better guess than I do. But I am glad that she agrees with the substance of the Bill, at any rate. I note the ironies to which she referred in her speech. I more than note them, but I will resist the temptation to respond to them, if she does not mind.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord raised issues about the Competition and Markets Authority post Brexit. The CMA is not a party to the agreement, so the agreement cannot simply be transitioned without amendment. Any future competition co-operation between the UK and Canada will have to be negotiated and agreed with the Government of Canada, and I suspect that the same has to be true about the relationship between the CMA and the EU post Brexit. That will have to be part of the negotiation. I of course entirely agree with the noble Lord that that will have to be negotiated during the transition period so that there is no cliff edge in that respect.

As far as data is concerned, the agreement contains general safeguards for the transfer of information and additional safeguards for the transfer of personal data. Personal data can be shared only with the express written consent of the person or company to whom it relates. I hope that that is enough on data for the noble Baroness today. If she would like me to write to her in more detail, she can let me know and I will do so, but I hope I have given her enough reassurance in that regard.

I think I have responded to the points raised by both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. On that basis, I commend the Bill to your Lordships and ask that it has a Second Reading.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB)
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My Lords, I apologise for not intervening earlier, but I have a very brief question. The country called Kosovo is very dear in our hearts. It is situated between Albania and Serbia. Has the Minister’s department or the Foreign Office conducted any impact assessment? There will inevitably be consequences for Kosovo, which has a special status, as the noble Lord knows, because it is not fully recognised by all members of the European Union.

Lord Prior of Brampton Portrait Lord Prior of Brampton
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I cannot answer that question today; I will write to the noble Earl. Is the question about the impact on Kosovo of Albania and Serbia joining the EU at some future point?

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich
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Particularly the impact of this legislation.

Lord Prior of Brampton Portrait Lord Prior of Brampton
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I will write to the noble Earl.

The noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, asked what our view would be if, between now and our leaving the EU, perhaps during the transition period, the EU decided it wanted to expand to cover, for example, Serbia, Albania and other countries. I think that our response is that we would not want to stand in the EU’s way in such circumstances. I am sure that if it wanted to go ahead, it would be curmudgeonly for us to stand in its way.