Trade Bill

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara 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
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Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con) [V]
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My Lords, unlike my noble friend, I can support this amendment. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said that sharing sovereignty is not the same as sacrificing it. I feel deeply frustrated this afternoon for all manner of reasons. It is the first time since July that I have taken part in a debate without being in the Chamber; the frustrations of this afternoon, which have meant that I have to speak to your Lordships over the telephone, fill me with admiration for those who make that possible— we are all very much in their debt—but underline the unsatisfactory nature of our current Parliament. The sooner we can all be in the Chamber, the better. I certainly intend, God willing, to be back in the Chamber immediately we return from the Christmas recess, although we do not know when that will be.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, talked about the importance of movement. Several members of my family, including both my sons, are in service industries of one sort or another. Movement between the UK and the EU is essential to our prosperity as a nation. It beggars belief that the Government should be jeopardising that prosperity when we are in the deepest recession in 300 years. I cannot for the life of me understand why, when Covid struck, we did not press the pause button on our negotiations with our friends and allies—and they are both. Every nation in Europe is convulsed by Covid. It is the priority on every national leader’s agenda. For us to be coming down to the wire merely because of the mystical significance of 31 December is incomprehensible. Deadline politics is very rarely sensible or wise politics.

Those whose mobility is being frustrated are the very people on whom we will depend for our future: the innovative, the creative, those in the financial services and many others. The prospect of our leaving on 31 December without a deal—the Prime Minister tells us that is the most likely prospect—is a very harsh one. It makes me ashamed of my party and ashamed for my country. I just hope that, in this season of good will, some common sense and charity will prevail and a deal will be struck before or after 31 December, so that we can maintain proper convivial relations with our friends and allies in the European Union.

Of course we are out of the EU. I may regret that, but I do not think it practical that we can go back in, certainly not for very many years. We must make this work. We will make it work not by posturing but with true conviviality and a recognition that compromise is essential for progress in almost all walks of life. I am sorry not to be with noble Lords this afternoon. I cannot get back soon enough.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who often dominates our proceedings from his position on the Conservative Benches—even when he is not physically present, he still has a lot to contribute. He put his finger on a number of important points in this short debate on the mobility sector.

The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, as she is often wont to do, accused everyone who spoke in support of this amendment of trying to relive the Brexit debate. I hope that, when she reads the debate properly in Hansard and reflects on what has been said in response to her already, she will realise that that is way off course. My noble friend Lord Foulkes put it in his traditional bullish way, but he had a point. We are looking to a future that is not the same as the past, but a future with a significant disjuncture—the leaving of the EU—and this is here so that we can think again about how our future economic prosperity can be lodged in the things that make Britain a very successful economy, when we get it all right.

In introducing the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Fox, made a number of key points in support of his argument. The best was about how this suggestion for mobility must sit in the context of our services industries, which he and others pointed out are the majority part of our economy. He also said—it is very important to bear this in mind—that most trade in physical goods these days has a services component. We have heard examples in recent debates about Rolls-Royce; although it supplies bits of parts and elements for aircraft and other machinery, it mainly makes its money from the service contracts accompanying them. The key to delivering that is flexibility so that, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, put it, people are happy with the product they buy. There are cultural and social benefits as well.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, made very powerful arguments in support of our creative economy. I liked the phrase used by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull—the “human-gathering industries”. It is the first time I have heard that, but it may be more common in other debates and discussions. Our ability to create economic activity around the interaction of people clearly depends on people being able to move around and join together. Hospitality and other service industries rely on that, and it is very important that we get that right; it is what we do best in this country. We make most of the money that keeps our services going through that, and we must make sure that we have the right circumstances for it.

The narrow point about the cultural industries was, of course, made strongly by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. He has a long and distinguished record of saying important things about the creative industries in your Lordships’ House, and we should listen to him. It is a key sector of our economy and, of course, it depends on people travelling to perform or create in a way that is not true of many other traditional industries, but that is no reason to discriminate against it—indeed, we should do the opposite.

The old system we used to operate under, successfully, for many years has gone. We have to think about the new one, and we should not erect barriers to that. I am sure that the Minister will deal in detail with the points made when he responds, but will he answer a particular question that I have? It is noticeable that the free trade agreements being negotiated by his department, such as the recently signed Japanese agreement, often have a mobility component. Can he confirm that that is likely to be a feature of many of the free trade agreements going forward and, if so, in what way will that assist the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and those who have supported him in this debate?

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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My Lords, I start by giving my sincere thanks on behalf of the House to the technical staff for—how should I put it?—rebooting the House successfully. We remain indebted to them for their essential, continuing support.

Turning to Amendment 13, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, as I outlined in Committee, the Government have made it clear that our priority is to ensure that we restore our economic and political independence on 1 January 2021, as my noble friend Lady Noakes iterated. The rather depressing “new normal” that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, outlined plays no part in our vision. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes—I think I have pronounced his name correctly—that we do need to move away from talking about Brexiteers and remainers. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said himself, we should look forward, because we want a relationship with the EU which is based on friendly co-operation between sovereign equals and centred on free trade.

We know that it is important for businesses to be able to send their employees to deliver services on a temporary basis. This was reflected in the debate in Committee, where several noble Lords noted the importance of these arrangements for service industries, which are a crucial part of the UK economy, as the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, emphasised. I would like to pick up on his remarks, as well as those of the noble Baroness, Lady Bull. They are both absolutely right: there is a lot of talk, correctly, about the creative industries and, in particular, the importance of orchestras going on tour. This includes EU orchestras coming to the UK and touring here, and, equally, UK orchestras touring around the EU. It is very important indeed that that should continue, as well as in respect of touring companies. As I said in Committee, we are open to negotiating on the EU reciprocal arrangements that would and should allow this to happen, building on the provisions that are standard in trade agreements. By the way, this should include allowing lawyers practising both in the UK and the EU to have reciprocal arrangements, an issue raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh.

A reciprocal agreement based on best precedent will mean that, on a short-term basis, UK citizens will be able to undertake some business activities in the EU without a work permit. This would also apply to EU citizens making business visits to the UK. Task Force Europe, led by Lord Frost, is negotiating the precise details, including the range of activities, the documentation needed and the time limit. I was interested in the good example given by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, of German technicians needing to come to the UK, often urgently, to undertake work over here. I suspect that this may come from his experience in the aerospace industry. As he will know, the commitments on mode 4, which sets out the terms under which businesspersons can move between trading partners, are a feature of every free trade agreement that covers services.

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Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I understand the arguments in support of these amendments, but I do not believe that it is in our interests to seek unduly to restrict the list of countries with which we may choose to enter into trade agreements. The more that we interact with and trade with less developed countries—those least able to comply with the climate obligations that we have undertaken—the more we will assist them to raise their populations out of poverty and become prosperous. It is only by becoming prosperous that they will be free to accord the same importance to emission reductions as we are able to do. Furthermore, how on earth can a Minister of the Crown make a statement to Parliament confirming that any agreement will not give rise to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions? The expectations of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and the co-signatories to the amendment are surely unrealistic.

Amendment 14 would be counterproductive and could limit the volume of trade with many developing countries, which would negatively impact their ability to introduce climate policies similar to our own. Amendment 21 is unnecessary and possibly counter- productive. We have rolled over continuity agreements with 59 countries, and none has eroded our domestic standards on the environment, food safety or animal welfare. I have not heard any noble Lord cite an example of a domestic standard that has been undermined or an international agreement not adhered to. In the case of food safety standards, it is for the Food Standards Agency to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high food safety standards and consumers are protected from unsafe food. Decisions on those standards are a matter for the UK and are made separately from any trade agreements. We are a world leader in environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety. Could my noble friend confirm that the Government are committed to maintaining those positions and that he agrees that these amendments are unnecessary and inappropriate?

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a very good debate, and we have ranged far and wide across the issues raised originally by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and picked up later by the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Bennett, with their amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, makes good points about future trade agreements needing to tie us to the net-zero carbon and other environmental standards that we have and points out the need for consistency of government policy across all the areas involved, not least trade, to achieve that. We need to think very carefully about how our new trading agreements, which the Government are very keen to see signed, and which we support, will use the climate change focus as they move forward.

When the Minister responds, he will undoubtedly say that we have very high standards and will never negotiate them away, but he must admit that the Agriculture Act 2020 has a non-regression clause covering environmental issues. So we look to him to reassure us that our standards are high and will not be diminished, but also to say why he is not prepared to see these broader issues, such as the environment and others, included in the Bill, because that seems to be how the Government are thinking with this policy.

Other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate have argued that we should do more than simply respect our own standards in the trade agreements and deals that we want to do. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, was very strong on the need to live up to our role as a leading advocate of decarbonisation and to lead the way for others. Again, her argument was that putting that in the Bill would be key, since it would show the world not only that we have the arguments and are practising what we preach but that we have a proselytising role to play in relation to the wider world.

It was good to hear the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry, supporting points that have been made in this debate—particularly the view of the noble Earl that there are very few doubters left in Parliament. He may be wrong about that; I think there are one or two scurrying around. He also points out that the department has a bit more to do before it is walking the walk. We should think about that. He made a good point about the recent agreement with Japan and the lack of alternative energy proposals within it. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, also made a good point about how not just farmers, whom he mentioned, but the wider public want the Government to reach further on this to find zero-carbon targets in all that they do—and that of course applies to imports.

I look forward to hearing the noble Lord’s response. He will understand that we think we will come back to this, perhaps not in the form of this amendment but on other related issues about non-regression of standards, as we progress through the Bill.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 14 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Purvis, alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, seeks to prevent the Government from signing international trade agreements or laying an international trade agreement under CRaG, unless they confirm to Parliament that the agreements are compliant with domestic and international environmental obligations.

I assure noble Lords that we remain firmly committed to upholding high environmental standards. We understand and share the public’s concern about protecting our natural environment. Having been lucky enough to visit both Antarctica and the high Arctic in the last five years, I can relate to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who cited Sir David Attenborough’s deep concerns about our planet. She is right and he is right. I have seen climate change for myself and it is real.

I take great pride in stating again that none of the 28 agreements signed with 57 countries has diluted standards in environmental protections. We have voluntarily published parliamentary reports for your Lordships’ reference, alongside every continuity agreement, which provide evidence of our commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. To be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Curry, over 130 hours of debate on the Bill and its 2017-19 predecessor, no Peer or Member of the other place has been able to identify a single example of any of our continuity agreements undermining our domestic or international environmental obligations. I do not believe that any example was provided in this debate either. My noble friend Lord Trenchard made this point in a powerful speech, and I believe he is right.

The Government have been very clear that any future trade agreements must uphold high standards in the protection of the environment. We will not compromise on this. I remind your Lordships that the EU (Withdrawal) Act already provides legislative underpinning by transferring the EU’s rigorous standards on environmental protection and sustainability on to the UK statute book in full. Our high regulatory standards are not dependent on EU membership.

The remarks of my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lord Trenchard hinted at our approach. We are using trade policy to promote the clean growth and climate change objectives of Her Majesty’s Government, helping to deliver the full economic benefit of the UK’s shift to a low-carbon economy. The energy White Paper, published just this week, underlines our ambition in this space, and your Lordships will be aware that a Statement will be repeated in the House tomorrow on this very subject.

The UK has often been a leader in the development of environmental standards, and we go significantly further than our trading partners. The UK was the first country in the world to introduce legally binding greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets through the Climate Change Act 2008. We were also the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2050. In our outline approaches to free trade agreements with the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, we have committed to securing provisions that will help trade in low-carbon goods and services, supporting R&D and innovation in sectors such as offshore wind. My noble friend Lord Sheikh cited the importance of this sector in his remarks.

The UK is already a global leader in offshore wind, with the largest installed capacity in the world. The UK aims to produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40 gigawatts by 2030. The UK could also establish a first-mover opportunity to develop advanced operations and maintenance services in wind farm decommissioning, which could become a £53 billion market by 2050.

Additionally, as many noble Lords are already aware, on 18 November, the Prime Minister—who by the way is taking a lead—set out his 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. Covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies, the Prime Minister’s blueprint will allow the UK to forge ahead with eradicating its contribution to climate change by 2050. All of this will come in the year that the UK chairs the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned.

These are not the actions of a Government intent on reducing environmental standards—far from it. This is one of the most ambitious climate agendas in the world. I wholly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Oates, who said that we just offer warm words on climate change and no action plans. He could not be further from the truth on this. I was particularly pleased to see that the former Vice-President Al Gore, either today or yesterday, praised the UK’s leadership in banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.

I remind your Lordships that we are seeking only to replicate EU trade agreements to which we already enjoy access. If this amendment applied to our continuity programme, it would result in up to 40 ministerial Statements, all of which would be nearly identical, confirming that we are replicating the status quo.

Amendment 21 is in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Boycott. As I have explained, our continuity agreements, the implementation of which is provided for by the Bill, are fully aligned with environmental obligations such as the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris climate change conference, and will remain so, as the Bill seeks to replicate existing EU agreements. It is indeed good news that President-elect Biden has iterated his support for the Paris Agreement, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, remarked.

ClientEarth, the Trade Justice Movement, the NFU, the CBI and others all agree with the objectives of this work. As set out in the 25-year environment plan, our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it. As I reassured your Lordships not long ago, our continuity agreements are in full compliance with every other international convention named in the amendment, whether it was passed at the UN level or through other multilateral fora.

This amendment would also require the publication of an environmental report for every continuity agreement that we signed, and then additional update reports to be tabled every 12 months. This would result in over 100 reports over the lifespan of this Parliament, for a set of continuity agreements that simply replicate existing FTAs to which we are already a party. Surely noble Lords will agree that this is neither necessary nor proportionate. I listened carefully to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, but I will have to write to my noble friend Lord Caithness, who asked questions about what the reports were, where they were coming from and whether they would report on health and the environment. I pledge to do that.

We already publish a parliamentary report alongside each agreement laid under CRaG, setting out our approach to delivering continuity, and will continue to do so for all remaining continuity agreements that we sign. These reports confirm our replication of sustainability chapters in EU agreements.

The Government have always been clear that we are wholly committed to the preservation and improvement of the environment. The continuity agreements we have signed thus far maintain our commitment to vigorously defending and upholding environmental standards. As such, I ask the noble Lord and noble Baroness not to press their amendments.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a good debate on an important issue. We have heard some very expert contributions from all sides of the House set out the scene clearly. In responding to the debate, I will also speak to Amendment 19 in my name, which I am pleased has some support from the noble Lords who spoke before me.

The issue that distinguishes my amendment from those in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Kramer and Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is—if I can use an inelegant term—the fact that I was trying to provide in the amendment a little wiggle room for the Government on ISDS. I mean that in the sense of offering the Minister and the Secretary of State, when a proposal for an ISDS mechanism comes forward within a trade agreement, the chance to argue the case in Parliament and get support for it, should that be necessary in his or her judgment in relation to the particular case concerned. However, today’s debate has polarised the views of those who are concerned about ISDS. Probably the right thing to do is to signal at this stage that I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and we would be prepared to follow her into the Lobbies if she wished to test the opinion of the House.

The reasons for that are easily summed up; we can look to the cases drawn up by my noble friend Lord Hendy, the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. For a moment, I thought that he was going to turn into a serial rebel with his victory earlier on in our debates this afternoon; I also thought that he might wish also to move against his own Government on this issue, but he was able to draw a line and point out both the transgressions that were being perpetrated within the Government and the opportunity for a rethink, in his terms, in the light of the schemes before us.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, concluded, we probably need to draw a line in the sand and explain why we do not believe that ISDS is the model that the Government should be thinking about going forward. It may well be that the multilateral tribune approach is not yet right. There may also be a better case to be made for the use of our own courts; after all, we have an experienced and expert judiciary and a lot of court experience in these matters. If we are doing trade deals with countries that also have mature legal systems, it is hard to see why an ISDS scheme needs to be there unless, as my noble friend Lord Hendy said, this is part of some overall scheme of preferential treatment for those who have investment to spare but find the risks too great and need the assurances of an ISDS system to back up their support.

We live in different times. I do not know whether the old arguments will work, but I do know that what we see before us with ISDS is not right. It is no longer fit for purpose— it must change. We should start that progress by supporting the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade (Lord Grimstone of Boscobel) (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendment 15, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and Amendment 19, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. These proposed new clauses concern the approach taken to investment protection and the settlement of investment disputes where these provisions are included in free trade agreements. I will try to restrict my comments to points germane to these amendments.

The UK has included these provisions in more than 90 bilateral investment treaties, which have been crucial for our overseas investors. The UK is one of the most open countries for investments. That is because one of the great attractions for foreign investment is the fair and independent legal system underpinning domestic and foreign investment. We look to use investment provisions in trade agreements to guarantee equivalent levels of legal certainty for our businesses expanding overseas. These businesses make sizeable investments and incur significant risks. It is therefore vital that they can operate in a free and fair environment with a means of independent redress where treaty commitments have been breached.

In response to points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—not that I expect I will cause noble Lords to change their minds, sadly—many major British companies tell me that the existence of ISDS in certain overseas countries is absolutely germane to their decision to invest in that country. I recognise that noble Lords are concerned that these interests are correctly balanced in our free trade agreements with the Government’s right to regulate in the public interest. That is an objective I share. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for answering the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on Canada in such depth and with such erudition—in words I could not hope to better.

Amendment 15 would permit the UK to sign a trade agreement only if it commits all parties to pursue the establishment of a multilateral investment tribunal system and an appellate mechanism for the settlement of investment disputes. It would also require all such disputes against the UK to be heard by UK domestic courts until such a system is in place. Your Lordships will no doubt be aware that not all trade agreements include investment protection and dispute settlement. It would not be appropriate to require all trade agreements to include a commitment to pursue a multilateral investment tribunal system or for disputes to be heard in UK domestic courts. In the absence of such a system, including this requirement would only hinder the progress of UK trade policy.

The UK is fully engaged in negotiations at the UN Commission on International Trade Law on the options to reform investor-state dispute settlement and the possibility of establishing a multilateral investment court —MIC. I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that the process of triangulation continues, and we have not yet come to a conclusion on the most appropriate way forward. Binding the hands of both the UK and our treaty partners before negotiations are concluded may not be in either their or the UK’s best interests, especially, as my noble friend Lord Lansley noted, some of our major trading partners are against the concept of the MIC. My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about ISDS and China. I confirm, perhaps surprisingly, that we have had a bilateral investment treaty with China since 1986. However, perhaps to the relief of noble Lords, there has never been a case brought against the UK under that treaty—nor do I expect there to be.

As for the requirement for UK courts to hear investment disputes, depending on the circumstances foreign investors in the UK will already have a means to legal redress against the Government without resorting to ISDS. It is likely that if we impose a requirement for disputes to be handled only by national courts, this will need to be agreed on a reciprocal basis with treaty partners. This would then require disputes brought by UK investors against a host state to be heard in their national courts, undermining the access to independent ad hoc arbitration for UK investors which has successfully supported UK investors worldwide for the past 40 years. I have no doubt that our major investing companies would oppose this.

ISDS in its current form is valuable for UK businesses investing overseas. This in turn benefits UK citizens as their shareholders. Conversely, the UK has never been a respondent in an investment dispute before a tribunal that has gone against it. The UK’s existing stock of bilateral investment treaties all contain ad hoc arbitration as the form of dispute settlement. Arbitration is a widely used means of resolving disputes between parties, including under international and domestic law.

Amendment 19 would similarly require the UK to pursue the establishment of a multilateral investment tribunal system and appellate mechanism. It would also result in the UK being unable to implement trade agreements containing ISDS unless the subject matter of a claim is something under which UK domestic law offers redress to UK persons. It would require the Government to approve a mandate for a free trade agreement containing ISDS provisions through regulations of both Houses of Parliament.

I will start with the redress available to investors under domestic law. The amendment overlooks the fact that, depending on circumstances, foreign investors in the UK already have the means to seek legal redress against the UK Government through domestic law, without resorting to ISDS. I humbly suggest that is one reason cases have never been brought against the UK under ISDS. As I mentioned, UK courts are regarded internationally as reliable and independent. It is worth reiterating that this is one reason the UK has never been a respondent in an ISDS case.

The amendment requires that the Government approve the inclusion of ISDS provisions through both Houses of Parliament. The Government have already committed to publishing their negotiating objectives, along with an initial impact assessment and a response to any public consultations, before entering negotiations. I humbly suggest that noble Lords know well that, as required under the CRaG procedure, the Government will lay the final treaty text alongside an explanatory memorandum before both Houses for 21 sitting days. This House has the power to prevent ratification should the ISDS provisions in the proposed treaty not be to the satisfaction of noble Lords. The House of Commons can do so indefinitely.

On the point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh about dispute resolution in any EU agreement, I am afraid that, like me, noble Lords will have to wait and see. I hope this reassures noble Lords and, on that basis, I ask for the amendment to be withdrawn.

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Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Pitkeathley) (Lab)
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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, is not speaking, so we move now to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a good debate at a more detailed level than we were perhaps expecting at this stage of our considerations on the Bill. It is none the less important for that.

I took Amendment 16, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, to be a probing amendment in a sense. It is trying to tease out the different strands of activity among the issues arising from sustainable development goals about trade, particularly with disadvantaged countries, and government policy in relation to it. That is linked to the reduction in funds available for future development work in this area.

We are going to return to this on many areas over the years, I suspect; the impact that this cut will have on our available resources to support and ensure development in countries that need it will be a feature of our debates in future. However, it is not capable of being sorted at this stage by a single amendment. What we need is a clear statement from the Government on their policy, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give that.

The other amendment in this group follows on, as has been explained, from quite a good discussion in Committee and a subsequent meeting organised by the Minister, of which I had a readout, because I was not able to attend myself. It raises interesting issues, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, may be right that there is no issue here, because the Government are not going to do what they might be seen to be accused of in the terms of the amendment. On the other hand, there are doubts about how the whole EU structure for resolving how aid is given, and in what form it is given—in direct support and in ensuring that the impact of any support does not affect the ability of those countries involved to be able to trade their way out of their own difficulties—will be resolved. It needs to be resolved properly before we can say that we have a proper trade policy. I look forward to the Minister’s response.