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

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-III Third marshalled list for Report - (22 Dec 2020)
Moved by
46: Schedule 2, page 13, line 26, leave out from “1(1)” to end of line 27 and insert “may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab) [V]
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I will be brief. Framing this debate has proved to be difficult because, quite rightly, the Government and the Opposition are focused on dealing with the pandemic, and therefore less attention has been paid to Britain’s post-Brexit trading arrangements. That said, the Government’s intentions are to achieve the best possible trading position and, as regards the amendment, the best possible public procurement arrangements. The intentions are clear and agreed. How to do so is not.

The Labour Party, along with many others, including the TUC and good, solid companies, are of the view that the Government must introduce measures that protect the best from being undercut by the less good. A race to the bottom should not be entertained. The Government have made several previous commitments: there was to be a Green Paper on this subject; there would be a review of the relevant EU law, post Brexit; we were told that there would not be any risk of a race to the bottom. However, that fear persists.

Can the Minister answer some questions, even at this late stage of the Bill’s passage? Will the Government seek to protect and enhance workers’ rights, living standards and our climate change position post Brexit? Will they implement International Labour Organization —ILO—standards as a form of protection, especially against modern slavery? What is the Government’s position regarding what was known as EU retained law in the area of public contracts? Do they intend to legislate to make good any shortcomings in this area? Unless the Government commit to those aims, it is hard to see how protection and standards will be maintained, let alone enhanced, in the years to come.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I will now address Amendment 46, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, which seeks to apply the affirmative procedure for any regulations made using the powers under Clause 1.

Perhaps understandably, because this is the last amendment that we will be addressing on Report, noble Lords wished to get certain matters off their chest at the commencement of debate on this amendment, so perhaps they will understand if I do not respond specifically to those points but restrict my comments to the amendment. I will of course commit to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that I will write to him with details of the exact timetable, which I do not have available to me at the moment.

Turning to this amendment and, as I say, restricting my comments to the amendment, given the late hour, I first remind noble Lords that the UK will accede to the GPA on the basis of continuity. This means that the “coverage schedules” referenced by noble Lords today and in Committee will remain broadly the same as those that the UK has had under EU membership. I know that noble Lords have suspicious minds and I say “broadly” because the UK’s independent GPA schedules incorporate technical changes to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer an EU member state, and there are now successor government entities other than those listed in Annexes 1 to 3. I have provided more details of these changes in a written response to a question asked on this issue in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, which I am happy to outline to the House.

The UK’s independent coverage schedules were shared with the International Trade Committee in 2018, along with the text of the GPA and the schedules of other GPA parties. They were then laid before Parliament for scrutiny, in line with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, and were concluded without objection in 2019. Since then, Switzerland has agreed to implement the GPA, as revised in 2012. As such, to ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny and transparency, the new Swiss schedules were laid before Parliament in October 2020. So I hope noble Lords will agree that there has been ample opportunity to scrutinise the terms of the UK’s GPA accession.

With regard to the scrutiny of our future participation in the GPA as an independent party, I again reassure noble Lords that provisions under Clause 1 are limited to a very specific set of scenarios in the GPA. I stress that this does not include any broader renegotiation of the GPA or of the UK’s market access offer to the GPA.

In the short term, the powers are required to implement an update to the list of central government entities in Annexe 1 of the UK’s GPA schedule. The update will reflect the fact that many entities have merged, moved or changed name since the list was originally written. Given the limited nature of such changes, I believe it is not appropriate to apply the affirmative procedure to Clause 1. Moreover, it is important that these necessary regulations be made swiftly because, as I often find myself saying, if there are delays, the UK could be in breach of its obligations under international law. I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of this House has twice considered the power in this clause and on neither occasion saw the need to comment on the use of the negative procedure.

As we are now reaching the end of Report, I will make some concluding remarks. I think that anybody who has witnessed the way our House has dealt with this Report stage can only admire the scrutiny noble Lords have given. That scrutiny has illustrated various aspects of the Bill which were not necessarily fully visible to people at the beginning, and it has drawn people’s attention to how important trade policy now is to the United Kingdom. The fact that the United Kingdom now has full control of its trade policy will lead in the years to come to some very positive developments, as we have already seen with the free trade agreements we are negotiating.

I very much thank noble Lords for the way they have approached Report stage. This is the first Bill that I have had the pleasure of taking through the House, other than our “son of Bill”, which we did before Christmas. I thank noble Lords for the way that they have assisted me and dealt with my inadequacies from time to time, no doubt, in the way that I have presented this Bill.

I thank your Lordships for the attention you have given to this Bill and I look forward to Third Reading. With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab) [V]
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for their support for this amendment. I also thank the Minister for his honesty in pointing out our shortcomings in failing to take up these issues when we previously had the opportunity to do so; but that is another matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 46 withdrawn.