Lord Curry of Kirkharle debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 22nd Jul 2021
Mon 18th Jan 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
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
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

Net Zero Test

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord McFall of Alcluith Portrait The Lord Speaker (Lord McFall of Alcluith)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich. No? I think we will go on to the next supplementary question. I call the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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Can the Minister confirm that, as stated in their response to the Climate Change Committee recommendations, government policy that flows from the Agriculture Act and the Environment Bill that impacts on agriculture will take a holistic approach and take into account the significant benefits that agriculture does and will deliver, such as carbon sequestration in soils, crops and plants?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord on the important contribution that agriculture makes and will need to make in the fight against climate change. Defra is looking at ways to reduce agricultural emissions and is progressing its environmental and land management schemes. It is also looking at other options to reduce agricultural emissions, including some very innovative solutions on the use of, for instance, methane-inhibiting food additives.

Free Trade Agreement Negotiations: Australia

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
Thursday 24th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My noble friend is quite right: Australian animal welfare standards are in fact higher than those in many other countries around the world, and in some cases higher than those in the EU. My noble friend has given one example. Others include the practice of castrating chickens and the production of foie gras, which are banned in Australia on welfare grounds, as they are in the UK; however, they continue to be permitted in the EU. Australia is marked five out of five—the highest possible mark—in the World Organisation for Animal Health performance survey.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to debate this FTA. Let me say something nice: I congratulate the Government on having negotiated this deal very speedily. Incidentally, I want this and other FTAs that will follow to succeed. I have two questions for the Minister. When the TAC, the Trade and Agriculture Commission, is eventually established and able to scrutinise the agreement, and when Parliament has a chance to debate it, will it be possible to amend the agreement if genuine concerns exist, or is it a fait accompli? Secondly, do this agreement and others that will follow put our free trade agreement with the European Union at risk?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I think the House is well aware of the scrutiny processes that these agreements go through. The process culminates in the CRaG process, in which the other place has the ability to vote against these agreements, so there will be scrutiny there. That provides a real bulwark. I do not know the answer to the question about the European Union, and if I may I will write to the noble Lord about that.

Trade Bill

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 18th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, as stated on Report, the Government bring forward these amendments in the light of the passage of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020. These amendments will revise the paragraph numbering in Schedule 3 to accord with the amendments made to the respective devolution Acts by the aforementioned Act. Schedule 3 relates to exceptions to restrictions in the devolution settlements. Although these amendments amend Schedule 3, I assure noble Lords that they are minor and technical and will not make any substantive policy changes to the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, my interests are as listed on the register. I will be brief; I fully endorse all the amendments proposed in this group.

I have a few comments on the proposed trade and agriculture commission but, first, on behalf of my friends on the Cross Benches, I thank the Minister for being so helpful and considerate throughout the passage of this Bill. His patience and willingness to engage have been very much appreciated, particularly when the sense of time pressure has been apparent. Obviously, the constraints of the pandemic have imposed on the parliamentary process, and coupled with the need to speedily expedite so many Bills to meet the timetable determined by leaving the European Union, this has placed enormous pressure on the system—not only on Ministers but on the myriad of staff teams that have of necessity been required to support this demanding timetable. I thank all for their valuable support, which has been incredibly important and is very much appreciated.

I thank the Government again for recognising the need for the trade and agriculture commission, and for deciding to give it statutory footing through the Bill. This is a hugely important step forward and is valued by all key stakeholders. I have a very straightforward request for clarity from the Minister, and I apologise for raising this again. It is on the relationship between the TAC and the food standards agencies. I am deliberately using the plural because of the separate functions that exist within the United Kingdom, and these amendments today are addressing issues relating to the United Kingdom. Removing human health from the remit of the TAC—because, one assumes, the food standards agencies will undertake that responsibility—raises the question of how this will work in practice when a new trade deal is being scrutinised by all these bodies, and how this will be reported to Parliament. Will there be a number of separate reports, will the individual bodies and agencies collaborate and produce a joint report, or will the Secretary of State filter the various reports before submitting to Parliament?

I know that the Minister tried to respond to these issues on Report, so I apologise that I am probably stretching his patience to the limit, but I am still rather confused and would appreciate it if he could please explain it again so that I have clarity. I end by thanking all staff once again for their immensely valuable help with this most important Bill.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests, notably as chair of the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and of Crown Agents. I congratulate the Minister and my noble friend Lord Younger on getting this important Bill to this stage after such an extended passage. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, about the support provided by the Ministers and their professional and helpful team.

Britain has a great trading history and we must enter the new era with confidence, backed by our strengthened Department for International Trade and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I spell them out for good reason: there is potential in goods, services and digital.

My noble friend will recall that there were some uncertainties on Report, and that in summing up and withdrawing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, said that he or I might come back at Third Reading. This seems the right place to ask my questions, since the operation of powers in the devolved nations was under discussion. That has been clarified in these government amendments, to which I do not object, despite the earlier reservations I had expressed. I have given advance notice in the hope that the Minister can reassure me.

The clauses on trade information enable HMRC to collect information about UK exporters. It has been made clear all along that compliance with the request would be entirely voluntary. On Report, my noble friend the Minister said that the practical implementation of this would be a “tick box” on the tax returns—presumably, both corporate and personal. However, he gave no indication of the sorts of questions that would be asked; can he kindly do so today? I appreciate that this will be in regulations in accordance with what was Clause 7(4), but we need an idea of what information will be sought. For example, will it be the name of the trader, and which country or countries they exported to in the tax year in question? Will they need to provide a breakdown of customs headings?

Trade Bill

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

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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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.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, my interests are as listed in the register. It is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who is extremely well informed. I speak to Amendment 22 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and my noble friend Lady Boycott.

I will be brief and reserve most of my comments on the proposed trade and agriculture commission when we debate amendments in the group beginning with Amendment 26. However, I have a straightforward request for clarity, which is linked to this grouping of amendments. How do the Government plan to respond to the report that will be delivered by the existing Trade and Agriculture Commission within the next couple of months, when I assume it will report? We look forward to the conclusion of the crucially important task that the TAC was commissioned to undertake by the Secretary of State. It may well recommend a code of practice, as proposed in the amendment, and will certainly make recommendations that should influence the way we conduct future trade deals.

We must assume that the Trade Bill will have become law before the current TAC reports, so I am concerned that we will not be able to take its recommendations into account. I am interested in what the Minister has to say about how the Government will respond to the TAC’s recommendations retrospectively, having passed the Trade Bill before it delivers the report.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare my environmental interests in the register and my interest as chairman of the Royal Veterinary College.

I support Amendment 22 in the name of my noble friend Lord Grantchester and other noble Lords across the House. I absolutely agree that there should be parliamentary scrutiny of a code for ensuring standards and of any variation of standards in these highly important areas. My primary areas of interest and expertise are in the environment and animal welfare.

I am sure that the Government may say that provisions such as those in subsection (5) in Amendment 22 would be cumbersome and could delay important free trade agreements which the Government regard as so important to the UK in forging its future place in the world. However, I hope the Minister can reassure us that lowering or abandoning standards will not occur frequently—in fact, that they will be an exception—so the use of the subsection (5) provisions will not prove burdensome at all.

I hope, indeed, that it might be the reverse: that the Minister might welcome this amendment. I am not sure that the Government truly understand the pressure to reduce standards that will come from other countries in some trade negotiations. Having a bulwark in legislation should be a comfort to the Government, so that they can say, “We’re very sorry. We can’t agree to any lowering of standards unless our Parliament approves that”.

Trade Bill

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I support these two amendments. There is an overlap between them and the next ones tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. As my noble friend on the Front Bench will remember, I highlighted the environment as one of the key areas in which ISDS could cause problems for the United Kingdom. I will say a little more about that in the debate on the next amendment.

Suffice to say on this amendment that we must realise that the trade deals we are making now will have a huge impact on each and every one of us. They are much more complicated than they were in the past. Some 80% of our fruit comes from Europe, along with 50% of our vegetables. If we do not have a sensible trade agreement with Europe which takes that into account, it will cause increased problems for the Prime Minister’s campaign against obesity and the problems that the poorest in our country are already suffering with malnutrition and poor-quality food. It is well known that obesity rates increased in both Canada and Mexico after signing free trade agreements with the United States of America because the nutritional quality of food was lower than before. These free trade agreements are going to impact on us in all sorts of ways.

I am reminded that when we discussed this Bill on the first day of Report, my noble friend Lord Grimstone said that public health considerations would be excluded by the Trade and Agriculture Commission, although reports about them would be taken into account. Perhaps I may therefore press my noble friend: who or which institution is going to provide those reports on public health? We do not know. Public Health England is about to die a death. Which organisation will produce those reports? That is important. The reason I raise this is because the words “human” or “public” health are included in the proposed new clause in subsection (3)(b) of Amendment 21.

The other important area when it comes to health is the traffic light system that we put on packages to notify people about the nutritional quality of food. We all know that the United States of America hates the idea of a traffic light system and thoroughly disagrees with it. However, if we are trying to improve the quality of the food that we eat and get rid of some of the dependency that we have on processed foodstuffs, the traffic light system, which is currently the subject of further discussion, will play a hugely important part in that. This was part of the discussion and recommendations made by the Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee, whose report we have yet to debate. However, if we do not get things like this right, we will pay a huge price, and it is for that reason that I support these amendments.

Trade Bill

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bishop of St Albans Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and the revision he has made as he has engaged with the Government. I am grateful for his very clear exposition and will be concise in my support.

Modern trade agreements affect huge swathes of public policy, including consumer and workers’ rights, environmental legislation, food standards, health, public services and international development. MPs, who represent constituencies and work with a variety of stakeholders, deserve the right to assess the consequences of an agreement, as does your Lordships’ House. It has been argued that Brexit is about the UK taking back power, but I fear the Government have perhaps not moved past the 2016 divide and view Parliament as a body waiting for a chance to take us back into the single market and intending to scupper any agreement. That is not the case. Colleagues only want the best for their constituencies and our nation. Any suggestion that the Government may be ruling through fiat will inevitably produce poorer outcomes.

What this amendment proposes is far from radical. As has already been alluded to, we are currently outliers on parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals. The UK lags behind on transparency and accountability compared to the US, the EU and Japan, among others. These are fair and reasonable measures that will protect the interests of local industries across the UK; this amendment will allow us to strike deals that benefit the entire economy. I hope that noble Lords will support Amendment 6.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is a privilege to add my name to Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, which he presented so articulately. This is a critically important Bill and I am concerned that, as with other Bills associated with leaving the European Union, we do not have much time. This new chapter in our history gives us a unique opportunity to make sure that we adopt best practice and put in place appropriate conditions and processes that reposition the UK as a global leading influence. I said during the debate on the Agriculture Bill that we should be ambitious and set the bar at a level that demonstrates our commitment to deliver on issues of deep concern. We will debate some of these later today.

The Trade Bill is an opportunity to make a statement about our intentions and ambitions as a nation. This principle also applies to the scrutiny process we put in place as a democracy to match the best of them, whether that of our former partners in the EU, the US or, as has been mentioned, Japan. We need to ensure that we have a transparent and robust process and that Parliament has the opportunity to be consulted and to debate the purpose, intention and outcome of trade deals. Government should see this amendment not as an attempt to slow down or thwart the negotiating process but as a helpful and positive contribution to give Ministers confidence in their negotiations. If this amendment is accepted, they will have the reassurance of having the backing and support of both Houses of Parliament. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC) [V]
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My Lords, I am delighted to support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and to follow the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, with whom I largely agree on this matter and on many similar matters we have debated in recent weeks.

The House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for finding a way around the difficulties which were raised against amendments in these areas in Committee and for overcoming the hurdle imposed by the prerogative considerations relating to trade deals. I cannot agree with the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, on this dimension. His Amendment 12 could have an application for devolved Parliaments, for reasons I will qualify, but I recognise the general reasons he has put forward and will support him if he presses his amendment to a vote in due course.

As noble Lords might well anticipate, I speak from the viewpoint of the devolved Governments and Parliaments. In the context of Wales, in Committee we addressed several of the issues which might arise in the negotiation of free trade agreements. In Amendment 6, particularly subsection (9) of its proposed new clause, the obvious issue is whether the implications of free trade agreements could have an adverse impact on the economies of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The need for these devolved Governments to be drawn in at an early stage is twofold.

First, it is to enable them to alert the UK Government to any negative impact they might not have fully taken on board, not least negative effects on, say, farming, environmental dimensions or food safety considerations, which conflict with the devolved Governments’ policies on such devolved matters. Secondly, the beneficial provision of the proposed new clause in this amendment is to enable the devolved authorities to flag any special dimension that might help the devolved nations capitalise on new opportunities arising from trade negotiations, which would be beneficial for them and, possibly, the people of England.

I realise that trade treaties lie outside the ability of Parliament to amend as they progress, and that the devolved Governments will also have to work within parallel constraints. It is for another occasion for us to debate that principle, and I suggest that there are two sides to that argument. There can, however, be no doubt that the devolved Parliaments should have just as strong a voice on the impact of trade deals on matters within their competence as Westminster does on issues that impact policies that affect England only.

I would go further than this amendment provides, as we have in other legislation before Parliament, by requiring that, if the devolved Governments are not agreeable to the steps taken by the UK Government, there should be a requirement for ministerial explanation and a cooling-off period. That, however, is not before us today.

I have one last point. If Westminster is implacably opposed to the devolved Governments having their say in these matters, it will certainly only hasten the day when these Parliaments seek the powers to make international treaties for themselves to protect the interests of their people. Is that what noble Lords really want? I urge all sides to support this reasonable amendment and for the Government to accept it.

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Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB)
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My Lords, as always, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I greatly agree with what he said and want to amplify one of his points. I also support Amendment 7, but do not think that it is finished business yet.

When the Agriculture Bill passed through Parliament, many noble Lords advocated amendments about the UK’s food standards: that they should be written into law to protect us from lower food standards in the future. This was backed massively by the public, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and many other noble Lords have said. Some 2.6 million people signed a number of related petitions, and 260,000 people took the trouble to write to their MP because they were concerned about this. The Government have instead opted to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on to a statutory footing, extending its lifespan and requiring it to look after these important matters. Is this enough? I think not.

We know that trade deals can put huge pressure on food standards and lead to the import of food produced to lower—or indeed higher—standards. Evidence shows that a number of prospective future trading partners want the UK to lower its food and animal welfare standards and to allow the import of currently banned products, including the well-known examples of chlorine chicken and hormone beef as well as others such as products containing residue of pesticides.

The TAC was formed by the Government in response to consumer and farming concerns. Its main aim is to consider the development of the Government’s trade policy, to reflect consumer and developing world interests and to consider how we engage with the WTO on animal welfare. However, as it stands, it will relate only ever to broad farming, food, environmental and animal welfare concerns. Food safety is considered, but not public health.

However, we now have it on a statutory footing and have expanded proposals for membership to include experts on trade, animal and plant health, and animal welfare. This is welcome but not enough. The Government’s amendment categorically excludes the TAC from considering the impact of agri-food trade on human health. Its reference to what the TAC reports on states that, in preparing the report for Parliament, the Secretary of State for International Trade must

“request advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission … except insofar as they relate to human life or health”.

If the TAC is limited to thinking about health very narrowly, within the confines of a sanitary or phytosanitary source, wider considerations such as impacts to diets, antimicrobial resistance or pesticide residues will be lost. If it is not the role of the TAC to consider this, who will consider it? We all know the long impact of bad diets—those heavy in sugar, fats and salts. We have seen this as Covid has torn through our communities this year. We legislate very well and effectively that food will not kill you today, but we have nothing on food that will kill you tomorrow or, more to the point, in your children’s tomorrows.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics published a report just last week showing how future trading partners for the UK are giving livestock antibiotics to make them grow faster, a practice which has rightly been illegal in the UK and across the EU since 2006. When I raised this in this House the other day, the Minister was emphatic that we have good antibiotic rulings. However, in 2022 the EU will ban the importation of meat and dairy produced in this way but the UK Government have not yet committed to this. This new report shows that, overall, farm antibiotic use per animal is about five times higher in the US and Canada compared with us, with use in United States cattle being about seven times higher. Antibiotic use per animal in Australian poultry is 16 times higher than ours. These are very serious facts.

Where is public health? Somewhere between the Agriculture Bill, the Trade Bill and the TAC. Why is it not in a leading role as we go forward in these crucial debates? I understand, although I might not agree, why the Government chose not to put public health right at the top of the Agriculture Bill as a public good. I know it is impossible to recompense people for growing food which has a monetary value, but I do not feel reassured about where this is going to be. I am also not reassured that it will be left in the hands of the Food Standards Agency, much as I admire it, because I do not understand its relationship to the Trade and Agriculture Commission. At the moment we do not have a public health expert on that body. This is slithering through the cracks; if we do not catch it now, in future it could have very serious consequences for us all.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, my interests are as recorded in the register. It is a great honour and privilege to follow my noble friend Lady Boycott, whose contributions are always thought-provoking and based on her immense knowledge of food and agriculture. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for her amendments and continuing commitment to the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s purpose, in the Agriculture Bill and this Bill.

I will speak to Amendments 31, 34, 35 and 36 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone of Boscobel. I very much welcome these amendments and congratulate the Government on introducing them into the Bill. The future of the Trade and Agriculture Commission was the subject, as has already been mentioned this afternoon, of much debate on the Agriculture Bill. The amendments to that Bill—Clause 42, which the Government finally introduced under pressure—complement the amendments we are considering this afternoon.

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Baroness Garden of Frognal Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Garden of Frognal) (LD)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, has withdrawn, so I now call the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I fully endorse the wise comments of the noble Lords, Lord Collins, Lord Alton and Lord Blencathra, and the remarks made just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. I fully support these amendments and will reserve my comments for the debate on Amendment 9 in the next group.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 8; I also support Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. In response to his kind invitation, I say to him that I do not think that the reference in his proposed new schedule to other human rights weakens the argument in any way. I hope that he rests assured that that is the position, and that his amendment stands as a good amendment that should be carefully considered.

I do not believe that this country has been at all at fault in its support for the international treaties and obligations with reference to human rights to which the amendment refers. Indeed, we have led the way from the very start in the international campaign for the protection of human rights that began more than seven decades ago. Legislation has been brought forward with the minimum of delay on each occasion to incorporate each of the protections and rights into our domestic law. Nevertheless, there are gaps in the mechanisms for giving effect to our international obligations. With the exception of the UN Convention against Torture, which enables the contracting parties to bring proceedings against any persons within their jurisdiction for acts of torture, wherever they were committed, and some extensions of the reach of the European Convention on Human Rights that have resulted from decisions of the European Court in Strasbourg, the contracting parties can deal only with offending acts that are committed within their own territories. They can deal only with persons who have infringed their provisions; they cannot deal with acts, however egregious, committed by states. The fact is, however, that some of the most horrific infringements have been committed by state actors, to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred, with the encouragement and support of the states themselves. The prospect of those states bringing the perpetrators to justice is remote. The result is that there are places across the world where those who are crying out for the benefit of internationally recognised human rights are without any effective protection whatever.

Quite how to meet this problem has puzzled many minds: it is not easy to find a workable solution, but we cannot stand idly by. We have to do the best we can. The amendment that follows, Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, offers one way in the case of the international crime of genocide. This amendment, which reaches out more widely across a whole range of violations affecting our international human rights and obligations and, happily, has the support of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, too, offers another. It fits in neatly with the aims and purposes of this Bill. Furthermore, the way it seeks to give effect to our international obligations should serve as an example to other state parties that have joined with us in the endeavour to extend the protection of fundamental human rights throughout the world. The amendment would show leadership in an area of human affairs where this is much needed. I hope very much, therefore, that the Minister will feel able to accept it.

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Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am very pleased to endorse this amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. I congratulate him on his impassioned and persuasive introduction, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords. I fully support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in his recognition of the determination of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, to uncover atrocities around the world and be fearless in their attempts to unravel them and draw them to our attention.

The number of Members of your Lordships’ House who are listed to speak on this amendment is an indication of the seriousness of the issue that it seeks to address. I shall be brief, but I emphasise that I fully support the view that in this new era of our history it is an opportunity to reset the dial and have the courage of our convictions by taking the global lead. We absolutely cannot condone genocide and must, through the channels available to us, uncover and condemn it. To condemn genocide on one hand as a nation state, then be willing to negotiate trade deals and perpetuate trading arrangements is inconsistent in the extreme. It would be hypocritical, and the Government would be guilty of turning a blind eye to atrocities that have been proven to be taking place. Walking past on the other side, to use a biblical phrase, is not a stance that a responsible global state should adopt, and it would undermine our moral influence.

I quote Robbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet, and complete the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man”:

“Man’s inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn!”

I hope that the Minister takes the matter very seriously and accepts the amendment.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am sorry that I was not able to vote for the previous amendment, although I am very much in support of this one, because I felt that there were ambiguities—not least because there are offenders against human rights very close to us, such as in Poland, Hungary and Greece.

This amendment is quite different. It is one of the most profound and important amendments to be discussed in your Lordships’ House for a long time. We have an obligation under the genocide convention to prevent and punish genocide and its perpetrators, but if we rely on the Security Council or the International Criminal Court, we are dodging our obligations. We know full well that China’s seat on the Security Council means that it would veto any such move against itself. What a terrible indictment of the international order today, especially the UN and its constituent bodies. Instead of living up to their original ideals of maintaining international peace and security, better living standards, friendly relations and social progress, action—or, more likely, inaction—by the UN has come to represent quite often the very opposite of those ideals: self-seeking and looking for a scapegoat, a cover for some of the most reprehensible Governments in the world.

This amendment possesses the advantage of bringing the UK into compliance with its obligations under the genocide convention. Several states have argued, like the UK, that it is for the international and judicial systems to make the determination of genocide. This argument is profoundly flawed, as it neglects the basic fact that it is the state that is the duty bearer under the genocide convention—hence the states that are parties to the genocide convention must act to ensure that the determination is made by a competent body and that decisive steps follow to fulfil the states’ obligations under the convention to prevent and punish. Moreover, to have the issue of genocide, or not, examined in our courts would be a good thing.

It will likely be argued that the amendment may jeopardise relationships with states accused of genocide in the UK. It should be emphasised that positive genocide judgments are exceptionally rare, owing to the extremely high evidentiary standard. A formal legal examination and determination of genocide in court, to which the trade signatories might make representations, should not be any more diplomatically upsetting than, for example, the UK making complaints at the United Nations against nations such as China for their alleged human rights abuses. The amendment—if passed, as I hope it will be—will in time become a matter of diplomatic pride, sending a strong signal about the values of the UK as a leader in global human rights.

Owing to the rarity of genocide judgments, very few countries would fall within the purview of these provisions. It is difficult to envisage, therefore, that the Government’s ability to trade will be significantly affected. Generally speaking, Governments tend to seek to strike trade deals with nations with which they share common values. The UK does not currently have a trade deal with a country credibly accused of genocide, I believe, and one is not in prospect.

As it happens, we are unlikely to achieve or even want a trade agreement with China. The experience of Canada shows why. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been expected to come away with an agreement to formally start trade talks, but he insisted that any talks include gender and labour rights and environmental standards. He also raised human rights and China’s use of the death penalty. Basically, he was shown the door and was told no—that there would be no negotiation of a free trade agreement.

Likewise Australia, which, along with many other countries, has been a vocal critic of China’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang, its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and its military activities in the South China Sea. The anti-climax came in April when the Australian Prime Minister took the lead in calling for a thorough investigation into the source of the coronavirus. That incensed China. Since then, the deterioration of the China/Australia relationship has been swift. China is barring Australian goods and putting punitive tariffs on them.

As for the attempted EU-China comprehensive agreement on investment, it is only to be expected that the EU will put finance ahead of human rights, and even the mildest rebuke from the EU about human rights in China elicits a response from China that it should not be meddling in China’s internal affairs—that the Chinese people will not accept an instructor on human rights and oppose double standards. It will all likely end in tears.

This amendment embodies the only thing that we can do. International courts are ineffective; international arrest depends on the perpetrator coming here. It is insulting to the victims of genocide to imagine that putting up monuments, especially after the catastrophe, will make any difference. Nor will lighting candles or pulling down statues—all empty gestures.

If captains of industry and politicians had adopted the practice outlined in this amendment in the 1930s, history might have been very different. For example, IBM had immoral commerce with the Third Reich, supplying it with tabulating machines and punch cards, so useful in rounding up victims.

Can there be any doubt now about the genocidal moves of China? Modern communications ensure that no one can hide from their senses the genocidal policies that it is pursuing against the Uighurs. Foreign companies have wittingly or unwittingly helped China with facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to enable social control. Trade with any part of China should be under the microscope, and let us not forget Tibet and the danger that now faces Hong Kong. Governments have the power to influence this. If China’s trade and investment are cut down, it may not be able to finance its barbaric projects. Not only should this amendment be passed with acclaim, but other Governments should follow suit.

We must remember the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. The world failed to react to the events while they were unfolding. What did the Security Council do? It removed its peacekeeping mission and allowed bureaucratic foot-dragging to obfuscate the need for prompt—indeed, advance—action. That has weighed heavily on the international community, which now realises that it must do more. Advance action is needed to prevent genocide. Once it is happening it is too late. That is why this amendment is so well crafted and so deserving of support from your Lordships.

Trade and Agriculture Commission and Trade Remedies Authority

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Excerpts
Thursday 15th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid that I have not seen that letter, but I will certainly read it afterwards. The Government are focused on getting trade deals that protect and advance the interests of our farmers and consumers. If a deal is not the right one for our farmers, we will walk away from it.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been given a very tight timetable within which to produce what we hope will be a meaningful report. Does the Minister accept that the timetable, as given, may be difficult, and would he be willing to extend it if necessary? How soon can we expect a report from the commission to be tabled before the House for Parliament to discuss?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that the TAC has a fixed term, as set out in its terms of reference. Members of the commission accept their appointments on that basis and, I am sure, feel satisfied that there is sufficient time. At the end of the TAC’s term, it will submit its advisory report, which will be presented to Parliament by the Department for International Trade at that time.