3 Lord Stoddart of Swindon debates involving the Department for International Development

Mon 4th Feb 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Trade Bill

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Excerpts
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 4th February 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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Obviously, those are discussions that will have to be concluded in the future framework. On the specific point about Switzerland, however, the noble Lord suggested that the services elements were additional to the Government’s policy on immigration as set out in the Immigration Bill. That is not correct; it is not inconsistent with the provisions in that Bill.

On the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on onward movement for EU nationals, the UK pushed strongly for the inclusion of onward movement rights during the first phase of negotiations on citizens’ rights in the withdrawal agreement but the EU was not ready to include them at that time. I made that point about reciprocity earlier. We recognise that onward movement opportunities are an important issue for UK nationals in the EU and we remain committed to raising this during detailed discussions on our future relationship. That is the latest position we have at the present.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab)
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There has been a lot of concern in the past that the position of the Commonwealth, relative to that of the EU, has been bad—that EU citizens and EU goods can come to this country without let or hindrance, whereas people and goods from the Commonwealth are unable to do so and have to take their place with the rest of the world. As I understand it, following our departure from the EU, our Commonwealth will be in the same position as people from the EU, and indeed the rest of the world. Can we be assured that the Government’s future policy in relation to the Commonwealth will ensure that it will have equal access?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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I listened very carefully to the final words that the noble Lord used when he talked about “equal access”, and I draw back from that a little. But on the broad principle, when we talk about the scheme of preferences and economic partnership agreements that we have with Commonwealth countries, if we have an independent trade policy, of course we will be able to take that into account. We would be free to do that. Similarly, if we are not part of free movement within the EU and have our independent immigration policy, we are in a position to set out the terms on which we want to admit people to work in this country. I hope that is helpful to the noble Lord.

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I really had to get to my feet since I was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, to tell him that it was not puzzlement on my part. It was thinking about what he was saying about the Social Chapter, because the Labour Government at the time opted out of it. What I am concerned about—

Lord Monks Portrait Lord Monks (Lab)
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Just to correct that statement, it was John Major’s Government who negotiated an opt-out from the Social Chapter in the context of the Maastricht treaty.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon
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As soon as I said that, I knew it was wrong, but in fact Mr Blair continued that way and did not introduce the Social Chapter. What I find strange about the noble Lord, Lord Lea, and others, is that they do not seem to understand that once we are an independent nation we can make the rules that we want, which may be better than the rules that 27 other member states—or 28 with ourselves—make in relation to the rights, privileges and wages of workers in this country.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
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That is the central point. The reason we could not do it at national level, whether in Europe or the wider world, is that our employer would say we will be uncompetitive. However, in a big bloc like the EU where we negotiated at Brussels level under the Social Chapter, they cannot say that—at least for the most part within the family of the European Union. That is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, has not answered.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon
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That, of course, is a matter of opinion. There are others who say that because we are members of the EU we cannot make the laws that we want in this country, which would benefit the whole country including the workforce. People should have more confidence in this country, the way it is governed and those who can govern it.

The noble Lord, Lord Lea, blamed—or seemed to blame—Brexit for Nissan reneging on its agreement to make its new model in this country. However, Nissan itself has said that the world decline in demand for vehicles, particularly diesel vehicles, was the main reason it wished to save money by developing the vehicle in Japan. We ought to be careful that we do not blame Brexit for everything that goes on in the world and this country. I hope that the noble Lord understands that I was not puzzled about what he was saying—I was merely thinking about what he was saying. Of course he will realise that I was actually listening to him, as I always do.

Lord Finkelstein Portrait Lord Finkelstein (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his compelling and persuasive speech. For those of us who are determined that we should not leave the European Union without any deal whatever, it is important to think about the points that he has raised. We are at the stage now where someone like me needs some guidance. There is no point haring off after something that it is not going to happen. We had a discussion in this House on these very questions, and when we had plenty of time to implement this solution, Labour Benches decided to vote against it and therefore implied that they were not in favour of it at that point, and probably that they would not be in favour of it at any point. I suspect that is still the case.

Before we get ourselves embroiled in Norway-plus as an alternative, I would certainly find it useful to know whether it is the noble Lord’s view that the Labour Party Front Bench is ever likely to support this proposal—

Brexit: Economic Analysis of Various Scenarios

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Excerpts
Wednesday 28th November 2018

(5 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the forecasts made during the referendum have proved utterly false and that we should therefore take note of what is being said by the Bank of England and others? Secondly, does he agree that the referendum was not simply about trade or money, but whether this country makes its own laws and decides not to continue to pay into the EU’s coffers?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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All of those points were made, but the important one concerns the nature of the analysis itself. It is analysis, not a forecast. The forecast will take into account many other things, such as productivity improvements and demographic changes—those are for later. What was promised was economic analysis of the impact of leaving the European Union in different scenarios.

European Union Bill

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd March 2011

(13 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon
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My Lords, I remember the noble Lord’s by-election very well because I went along to it and canvassed against him. It was not a very good experience because most of the people who had previously voted Labour, or a good many of them, were going to vote for him. They voted him back into office and here he is, still making speeches in Parliament, which of course are very welcome.

Today there seems to have been a coalition Bill but also a coalition against the Bill. This has been an interesting experience; I do not think that I have heard one speaker for the Bill. I have to say that I was going to welcome it, and to some degree I still do. However, it is 40 years too late. We should have had a referendum before we joined the European Economic Community, as it was then, but Mr Heath fought the 1970 election—in which I was elected the Member for Swindon—on the basis that he wanted a mandate to negotiate, no more and no less. Instead of holding to that mandate, he decided that he would push the legislation through Parliament without a referendum, and it was passed.

In 1975 we had a referendum, which was brought on by pressure from Tony Benn, and the people decided that they wanted to remain in the EEC. The opportunity was then missed, and it would have been a proper opportunity, to test the opinion of the people to see whether they wanted to join the Common Market, or the EEC or whatever it was, and discover exactly what road they had embarked upon. It was not simply a common market but a road towards much larger European integration than they expected. So any referendum now would be 40 years too late.

Opportunities to have referendums on other important matters, like important treaties, have been missed. We should, for example, have had a referendum on the Single European Act because it was a huge step towards further European integration. We should have had another referendum on the Maastricht treaty; unfortunately, that was refused by a mere eight votes in the House of Commons. We should have had a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. We did not, and because we have refused to grant referendums on these huge changes people have begun to distrust government altogether. The result is that the Bill, which will not solve the problems that we face, will give some reassurance. However, the building blocks for a single European state are already in place. Apart from having a single currency and a single defence policy, it is difficult to see how much further we can go without creating a country called Europe.

There are, as we have heard, many defects in the Bill. It is devoid of anything to repatriate powers that should not have been ceded in the first place. There is nothing there that gives hope for the repatriation of powers to this country. Indeed, the Government can avoid having referendums by various devices. Parliament does not seem to have any redress in such cases, unless it is to take action through the courts. That, in itself, would undermine parliamentary sovereignty. As we have already heard, the Bill cannot commit future Governments or Parliaments. There is no way in which the Bill can do that. That has been pointed out forcefully by many speakers today and they are absolutely right.

My other very important point is that there are apparently to be no referendums on new entrants to the European Union. That is the most essential thing for the people to have a say in. The extension of the influence and geography of the European Union is very important, particularly in the case of Turkey, which has a population of 80 million, all of whom would have access to this country in due course. Turkey would be an enormous influence on the leadership of the European Union. Once you have attracted a country from Asia, it would cease to be a European community; it would be a Eurasian community. Furthermore, the French want to incorporate the north of Africa as well. Would we have a referendum on that? I am sure that we would expect one.

Incidentally, there are no safeguards in the Bill against referendums being run time and again, as they have been in Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. If the Bill is to pass, we need an amendment to ensure that if a referendum is held it cannot be held again within, say, five years, so that Governments cannot say, “You must keep voting until you give us the right answer”. As I say, it has happened elsewhere.

Finally, we need a cost-benefit analysis of our membership of the European Union. Time and again, the Government have been asked to do this and, time and again, they have refused. Hence, they cannot really make their case. Unless the Government can tell the people of this country that there are real benefits, which they can see and understand, they will not believe that being in the European Union is good for them and good for the country. We need a cost-benefit analysis, and we should then have one referendum, asking “In or out?”. That would settle the matter and I could go home and have a nice, comfortable retirement.