Debates between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner

There have been 13 exchanges between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner

1 Tue 17th November 2020 Continuity Trade Agreements: Parliamentary Scrutiny
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (262 words)
2 Mon 20th July 2020 Trade Bill
Department for International Trade
8 interactions (403 words)
3 Mon 14th January 2019 European Union (Withdrawal) Act
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (504 words)
4 Thu 17th May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (201 words)
5 Thu 1st February 2018 Trade Bill (Eighth sitting)
Department for International Trade
29 interactions (4,383 words)
6 Tue 30th January 2018 Trade Bill (Seventh sitting)
Department for International Trade
16 interactions (2,559 words)
7 Tue 30th January 2018 Trade Bill (Sixth sitting)
Department for International Trade
58 interactions (7,629 words)
8 Tue 30th January 2018 Trade Bill (Fifth sitting)
Department for International Trade
25 interactions (2,487 words)
9 Thu 25th January 2018 Trade Bill (Fourth sitting)
Department for International Trade
24 interactions (3,358 words)
10 Thu 11th January 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Trade
2 interactions (146 words)
11 Thu 23rd November 2017 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Trade
2 interactions (110 words)
12 Thu 12th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Trade
2 interactions (172 words)
13 Thu 6th July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (310 words)

Continuity Trade Agreements: Parliamentary Scrutiny

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Tuesday 17th November 2020

(2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Services represents about 79% of our GDP and 80% of our employment. The UK, as we know, is a world leader in tech and digital and far ahead of our closest European competitors, France and Germany. We are one of the world’s leading international financial services centres, with best in class industry, infrastructure, talent and expertise. The recently announced deal with Japan goes further than the EU deal when it comes to services, particularly financial services.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister knows, but did not say, that the current CRaG process was put in place when many other layers of democratic scrutiny were applied to international treaties through the EU, but those layers are now gone. Now that his Department has failed to conclude the roll-over agreements, does he accept that democratic scrutiny needs to reflect not just the convenience of Government, but the proper oversight and challenge of Parliament? Or will he only change his view when he finds himself in opposition?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

I think the hon. Gentleman is operating under the misconception that the Government do not want Parliament interested in trade and in trade deals. We are constantly at this Dispatch Box—I, the Secretary of State and the rest of the ministerial team—talking about trade and trade deals. We welcome all the additional parliamentary scrutiny. I remind him that the CRaG process he talks about was set up under the last Labour Government. We have gone further in terms of the reports that we publish and the involvement of Select Committees in both Houses of this Parliament.

Trade Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Monday 20th July 2020

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

I will give way to the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner)—it is great to see him back in trade.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister talks of CRAG as if it is a process under which this Parliament has any power. He knows that it is the Government who enable Parliament to have a debate whereby it could vote against what is tabled under the CRAG process. He must look again at the way in which real scrutiny and accountability can be brought to bear in the way that the hon. Member for Huntingdon suggests.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

It is good to see the hon. Gentleman back. I remember that he was originally a Blairite Minister in Tony Blair’s Government, and it has been really instructive to see the journey that he has been on over some time. I saw him take the seat in the extreme corner of the Chamber earlier and thought, “Not only has he taken on the views of the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), but he has now even taken his previous seat.” The hon. Gentleman voted for CRAG in 2010, as did I. [Interruption.] We both voted for CRAG in 2010. CRAG allows Parliament to block a trade deal. It allows Parliament to block international treaties. That was the intention—his Government designed it in that way to give Parliament the ability to block an international agreement, and that remains the case today.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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20 Jul 2020, 6:09 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that our scrutiny offer compares very favourably with Australia’s and New Zealand’s and is at least equal to Canada’s. He is right in other regards as well. Some of these amendments would obligate the Government to publish the text after the end of each negotiating round. At the moment, we publish a written ministerial statement. The idea that we publish the interim text with the United States so that Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all our partners could see it when this Government—this country—are undergoing simultaneous negotiation with different partners is not a sensible way of proceeding.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

20 Jul 2020, 6:10 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

20 Jul 2020, 6:10 p.m.

I am going to make more progress.

This Government understand the desire of Parliament to have effective scrutiny of our FTA programme. That is why we have gone above and beyond the baseline provided by CRAG in committing to publishing comprehensive information ahead of entering into negotiations with partner countries. We have already done this—

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Monday 14th January 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 Jan 2019, 7:50 p.m.

I think we should look at what actually happened, and it is relevant to the point that the Secretary of State was trying to make back in December. People are very fond of saying, “There were predictions of disaster and financial meltdown, but nothing happened.” Well, actually, something did happen: I think it was called “£70 billion of quantitative easing”, which the Treasury put into the economy in order to stop the problems.

Of course the Secretary of State once believed that his friends in the Anglosphere would be queuing up to do new trade agreements that would replace any lost GDP growth. The Bank of England has quantified the potential value of those deals at just 0.2%—not 2%, but 0.2%, or one fifth of 1%, or £4.25 billion. Nice to have, but by my reckoning the Secretary of State would still owe me about 533 Brexit buses.

The Prime Minister is fond of saying that her deal is the only one on the table. Well, of course it is; she is the Government, and only the Government are able to negotiate with the EU. That does not mean that there could not be a different deal. The Brexit negotiations have been constrained by the Prime Minister’s red lines. We know that had the red lines been different then the deal would have been different also.

The Father of the House the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) reminded us in his admonishment of the Home Secretary that

“if we are maintaining an open border where there is a land border, it can only be done in a modern economy by having some form of customs union applying to both sides of the border”.—[Official Report, 5 December 2018; Vol. 650, c. 900.]

That is why we on the Labour Benches have been calling for a new permanent customs union with the EU in which we would have a say over future trade agreements.

When the shadow Chancellor mentioned this previously in our debate the Secretary of State was really rather rude and he reinforced that disparagement today. He reminded the House that under article 3 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union the EU shall have exclusive competence with regard to the customs union. Of course it does: the treaty binds the member states of the EU and gives the Commission that right to negotiate the terms of any agreement with third-party countries. It does not stop the EU concluding agreements with third-party countries where there is joint control.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con)
- Hansard - -

14 Jan 2019, 7:51 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No.

Perhaps I can read from article 8 of the TFEU:

“The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation.

2. For the purposes of paragraph 1, the Union may conclude specific agreements with the countries concerned. These agreements may contain reciprocal rights and obligations as well as the possibility of undertaking activities jointly.”

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 17th May 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

17 May 2018, 9:55 a.m.

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. That is why we have these 14 trade working groups with major markets around the world. We are in active discussions with those counterparts and we have the benefit, from March next year, of the ability to negotiate, sign and ratify trade agreements with them.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, the Government said that they were simply rolling over these agreements on precisely the same terms. Then they admitted that they would have to amend the agreements with Norway, Turkey and Switzerland to avoid rolling over such things as the customs union or the four freedoms that they would rather avoid, but the Minister has still not explained what process this sovereign Parliament will undertake to ensure that these important new agreements are subjected to proper democratic scrutiny. When will he?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

17 May 2018, 9:56 a.m.

We had significant exchanges on this during the Trade Bill Committee and the scrutiny arrangements are enshrined in that Bill, which I note again that the hon. Gentleman voted against. He will also know that these agreements have already been scrutinised in this House under existing EU scrutiny procedures, and there are precise arrangements set out in the Bill for how we go forward from here.

Trade Bill (Eighth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 1st February 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 11:40 a.m.

Very briefly, I commend the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun for tabling the new clause.

We have seen in recent days that the Government are usually reluctant to release any impact assessments or reports of any substance, for fear that they will prejudice negotiations and put the Government in the most awkward position. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will take heart from the fact that it is now usual for the Government, 24 hours after saying that they will not publish a report, to decide that they will do so anyway. I confidently expect the Minister to stand up and say that those on the Government Benches cannot support the new clause—we will support it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central said—but the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun should not worry or be discouraged, because I have no doubt that within 24 hours, the Government will see sense.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 11:47 a.m.

Welcome back to the Chair, Mr Davies; it is a pleasure to serve under you, as ever.

Clause 7, as we know because we debated it at length on Tuesday, sets out the powers that are needed for the Government to collect data to establish the number and identity of UK businesses exporting goods and services. Clause 8, in turn, sets out the powers that are needed for HMRC to share data with the Department for International Trade and other Departments and organisations in order for those bodies to carry out their public functions in relation to trade. Any trade information collected or shared by the Government under clauses 7 and 8 will come at minimal cost to business and the taxpayer—I will go into a bit more detail in a moment—and will be below the threshold needed for an impact assessment and review.

To deal with some of the points raised in the debate, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun asked about the impact on HMRC. I can confirm that HMRC will not require additional staff or resources for this function as a result of the data provision in the Trade Bill. From what the hon. Members for Sefton Central and for Brent North said, it sounded as if they are going to vote for the new clause. The different Opposition parties seem to be attacking the issue from different angles. Although the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said that too much resource is going to some places—I think that he called it the “Brexit gravy train”—the hon. Member for Sefton Central seemed to say that resources were too limited. However, I think that they are both coalescing around voting for the new clause.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:16 p.m.

I do not think the hon. Gentleman needs me to confirm that. He has said himself what the position of the devolved Administrations is, including on the legislative consent motion. We have listened to them and will continue to listen to them very closely. He has put his point of view on the record as to the perspective of the Scottish Government.

I will come back to some of the points raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Brent North wanted to put devolved Administration engagement on the face of the Bill. I stress again that these agreements are about continuity, not future trade agreements. We have been clear in the White Paper that we will engage. We therefore do not require statutory engagement structures in the Bill.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:18 p.m.

One of the trade agreements that we have repeatedly come back to, which makes it quite clear that this is not the simple roll-over of the existing trading arrangements that the Minister is talking about, is the treaty we currently have with Norway. Fisheries are an important part of Norway’s economy. It is almost inconceivable that in the roll-over of that agreement, there will not need to be some provision in that regard. Surely the Minister must address those points, because they are pertinent to the Bill and to the Government’s capacity to do what they seek to do, which in large measure the Opposition believe to be right and proper: to try to make the transition as seamless as possible. However, there will be areas where it is not, and Norway is one of them. We must address that and not simply gloss over it by saying, “Well, we’ll have to deal with that once we know what we’re doing with the EU final deal.”

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:19 p.m.

Of course we value our trade relations with Norway very strongly and closely. By geography alone, let alone the amount of oil and gas coming from Norway, we have incredibly strong trade relations. For the record, I met the Norwegian Trade Minister last autumn. I am perhaps going to sound like déjà vu all over again, but I repeat that the future trading relations with Norway will be very dependent on the future UK negotiations with the European Union. That is not a matter for this Bill; it is a matter that is being scrutinised on frequent occasions in this House and elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Brent North said that we need an engagement structure for future trade agreements. The Government agree that we need to engage the devolved Administrations in our future trade agreements for the benefit of the whole of the UK, as was made clear in the White Paper. We are talking to the devolved Administrations about what that will look like. The new clause would pre-decide that discussion.

The hon. Gentleman talked about international examples for consultation models with the devolved Administrations and gave us a quite interesting exposition of the position in Australia and other parts of the world. It was fascinating stuff, but our constitutional arrangement is very different from any of the international examples raised. As was made clear in our White Paper, we therefore need to design our own engagement structures, in consultation, that work for the benefit of the whole of the UK.

The hon. Members for Warwick and Leamington and for Cardiff North claimed that we were putting a constraint on the devolved legislatures. To be clear, the Bill will allow the devolved Administrations to make regulations that they consider appropriate for the purpose of implementing trade agreements in devolved areas, including in areas of retained EU law.

The hon. Member for Cardiff North said that devolution is being undermined. That is not at all the case. The Bill introduces new powers for the devolved Administrations to work collaboratively with the UK Government to secure continuity in our current trading relationships. Under the Bill, the devolved Administrations will be able to make every decision after exit that they can make before exit. We therefore do not need to commit to such a review or role for the Joint Ministerial Committee in legislation.

The official Opposition’s tabling at a late stage of this emergency extra new clause, which emerged earlier this week, seems to be more about Labour members of the Committee messing it up last week by controversially not supporting the Welsh Labour Government’s amendments, when everyone expected them to do so. When the hon. Member for Warrington South talked about a “political hell”, he might have been referring to the political hell we see all day, every day in the official Opposition in this House and elsewhere. On that basis, I urge the hon. Member for Brent North not to press the new clause.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Had I been disposed not to press the new clause, the Minister’s final remarks would have made me all the more determined to do so. However, I was not so disposed, and we will press the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:24 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is the last new clause we will deal with in Committee, and it is our last attempt in Committee to introduce a high-level principle into the Bill. We have tried to establish the legal framework for an ethical trading policy that respects human rights, labour standards, environmental integrity and the needs of countries and communities poorer than our own. The Government turned down every single amendment and new clause that tried to enshrine those principles in law. None the less, we will have one final push. We are trying to establish the principle of animal welfare and sentience at the heart of our trade policy. Perhaps the Government will agree to stand up for those species that share our planet with us, but that have no representatives of their own to speak for them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South spoke persuasively—though not persuasively enough to get Government Members to agree—about the importance of maintaining high food standards in all our trade agreements. She referred to the connection between high food standards and the call for animal welfare, whether in respect of the general requirement for food hygiene or the specific target set by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for a reduction of antibiotic use in agriculture. We also argued for animal welfare to be included in any impact assessment of the UK’s trade agreements, whether it is carried out ex ante or ex post. That call stands, and we will continue to press the point until we are satisfied.

I am pleased that the Minister saw fit to agree with us about the importance of this issue. I quote from the Hansard report of our sitting a couple of days ago:

“The Government have always been clear that we will maintain our very high standards on food and animal welfare, and for protection in that space. There will be no race to the bottom. Nothing in free trade agreements precludes a Government from regulating in the domestic environment. I hope that that is enough reassurance for the hon. Gentleman.”––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2018; c. 196.]

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:26 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under Tony Blair. Can he point to specific occasions when he raised concerns about animal sentience with respect to trade agreements that were going through at that time?

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:27 p.m.

That is one on which I will probably write to the right hon. Gentleman. I am convinced that there were a number of occasions when I did exactly that. I will try to dig them out from my records and send them to him. I am delighted that he did not stand up to repudiate the remarks recorded in Hansard, as he did the other day. Given that, I take it that he stands by them.

Sadly, the Minister’s reassurance on this matter is not enough. The right of parties to regulate in favour of animal life and animal health is regularly mentioned in the text of international trade agreements, yet that same right is typically circumscribed by requirements that any measures to protect animal health must be undertaken while facilitating trade. Governments may take any measure they like to protect animal health so long as it does not create an “unjustified barrier to trade”. It is left to a tribunal of trade lawyers, who examine the justification of the measure in relation to international trade law, to decide whether it is justified or unjustified.

There is sometimes a clause in the general exceptions chapter of a free trade agreement that affirms that a state may introduce whatever measures are necessary to protect animal life or health, but the meaning of “necessary” is left up to another tribunal of trade lawyers to decide. They may rule that an alternative measure is available that would be less burdensome on trade and therefore conclude, even if the alternative would be less effective, that the measure that was taken does not qualify as necessary after all.

This is familiar territory to anyone who has looked into the history of international trade disputes, both before and since the founding of the World Trade Organisation. There is an entire sub-discipline of trade lawyers and academics who have written about what they call the “necessity test” that is employed to ascertain whether a measure is necessary and thus allowed under international trade law, or unnecessary and thus prohibited.

Let me take as a specific example a free trade agreement that was mentioned in written evidence by the RSPCA, because it contains a fleeting reference to animal welfare. The Government are keen to replace the EU-Korea free trade agreement with a new UK-Korea agreement, which would be implemented using the powers afforded to the Government by the Bill. The chapter of the EU-Korea agreement devoted to sanitary and phytosanitary measures includes specific clauses about enhanced co-operation between EU and Korean authorities on animal welfare issues—anyone who wishes to look them up will find them in article 5.9—yet those fine sentiments are thoroughly undermined by the clause at the outset of the chapter, which states that the objective of the chapter as a whole is

“to minimise the…effects of sanitary and phytosanitary measures on trade”.

The health and welfare of animals—and of humans, for that matter—is already subordinated to commercial interests. That is precisely the problem.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:51 p.m.

The Government have made clear that we intend not only to retain our existing standards of animal welfare once we have left the European Union but, indeed, to enhance them. We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards anywhere in the world, and they will not be watered down when we leave the EU.

Our food is held in high repute thanks to our animal welfare standards. The withdrawal Bill will transfer on to the UK statute book all EU animal welfare standards— it is very important to understand that in the context of the withdrawal Bill, which was raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff North. Our current high standards, including import requirements, will apply when we leave the EU.

Similarly, the Government are committed to retaining the EU’s recognition of animal sentience. That is why, as has been referred to quite a few times in this helpful debate, at the end of last year the Government published the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill, which sets out how we can go even further and better enshrine in domestic law the recognition of animals as sentient beings. That point was capably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and others.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:52 p.m.

Does the Minister understand that the new clause’s intention is not to run counter to or prevent what we hope the Government will bring forward in that Bill? It seeks to establish the hierarchy of principles in international trade so that a necessity test or any other precursor in the clauses and paragraphs that deal with such issues cannot mean that animal welfare is of a lower order in that hierarchy.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:54 p.m.

Let us try to separate out those two issues. We will deal with animal sentience in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill. What we are talking about here is transitioning existing trade agreements. I will return to the intervention I made on the hon. Gentleman in relation to existing trade agreements, but let me first point out a few more things in the draft animal welfare Bill. It proposes a new obligation on Ministers of the Crown to have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings when formulating and implementing Government policy. A public consultation on the draft Bill has recently closed and DEFRA is considering all the responses received.

We are absolutely clear that all existing commitments relating to animal welfare will remain when these agreements are transitioned—I cannot be any more definitive than that. That is in line with our clearly articulated principle that it is our intent to transition solely the existing effects of the current agreements.

On current agreements, Mr Davies, you and I were elected in 2005, and in a couple of those early years we shared in Parliament I distinctly remember the hon. Gentleman being a DEFRA Minister. I was intrigued when he was seemingly unable to offer any single occasion when, as a Minister in DEFRA—the Department with primary responsibility in this area—he had raised any objection to EU trade agreements going through the House in relation to animal welfare or animal sentience.

I look forward to receiving the hon. Gentleman’s letter, in which he will explain in detail those occasions he was unable to remember today—he may have time to dig through his filing cabinet from 12 or 13 years ago to find them. I remember well that it was very rare for any Government Minister in Tony Blair’s regime to go against the word of Mr Blair, and very rare for any Government Minister to go against the word of the European Union, so I am interested to see if the hon. Member for Brent North managed to do both at the same time. I very much look forward to getting this letter. May I suggest that he shares it with the whole Committee, because I do not think that it is something I should abuse by keeping it private to myself? I look forward to that letter.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:55 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:55 p.m.

Of course—maybe he has remembered.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I just point out to the Minister that I voted for the ban on hunting mammals with dogs? I believe that most of the Conservative party voted to retain hunting mammals with dogs. I also voted to secure an end to cosmetic testing on animals, to ban fur farming and to introduce the Animal Welfare Act 2006. So there were a number of occasions on which my voting record on animal welfare and animal sentience stands up very strongly. I suspect that it would it be in marked contrast to many Members on the Government side of the House.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:56 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because I now find it even more illuminating. He has now been able to remember all these other occasions when he stuck up for animal welfare, but he still cannot remember a single occasion when, in relation to EU trade agreements, which is what the Bill is all about—

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:56 p.m.

rose—

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:56 p.m.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has now remembered the single occasion. I will give him another opportunity to tell us all about this disagreement he had with Tony Blair or the European Union.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 12:57 p.m.

It is not about a disagreement with Tony Blair or the European Union, because actually we did vote to ban the export of animals on the hoof in that Government. That was precisely about trade—it was banning live exports. The Minister has to accept that I have a very clear record on animal welfare in terms of not only domestic legislation in this country but international trade.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

I am still looking forward to the letter. The hon. Gentleman has still not remembered a single occasion when he raised this in relation to a European Union trade agreement. He has an opportunity. I am sure he will take a little bit of time to prepare the letter, and I am sure that all members of the Committee will look forward to receiving it.

The hon. Gentleman did mention live animal exports, which is an interesting subject. He says that he was concerned about live animal exports, but you and I know, Mr Davies, that while we remain an EU member we are unable to ban live animal exports. I do not know whether, at that point, he was taking an early Eurosceptic turn. Perhaps he mentioned to Tony Blair that he had this fundamental problem with the European Union. It was just after Tony Blair had promised a vote on the EU constitution, which was not delivered, so it may have been an interesting time to have made these Eurosceptic points that he now says that he has.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 12:59 p.m.

If the hon. Gentleman is a strong believer in EU law, surely he should be voting, and have voted, for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which seeks to take all of this retained EU law into the UK domestic environment.

To return to the issue, we have a manifesto commitment to take early steps to control live animal exports as we leave the European Union. The hon. Member for Brent North claimed that FTAs contain provisions stating that animal health measures must

“not be unjustifiable barriers to trade”.

Again, that returns to the point I made in my intervention on the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, that it importantly does not prevent states from imposing their own high animal welfare standards, which is what we currently do and will expect to enhance in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden made an excellent and succinct speech, outlining why the Bill is about existing trade agreements and why the Government have separate proposed legislation relating to animal sentience. I can tell her that the consultation closed yesterday and we will consider the 9,000 responses, as well as the report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, in due course.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun raised a relevant point when he said that the issue of animal sentience is devolved. I can tell him that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is speaking to the devolved Administrations regarding animal sentience. The clause in the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill refers only to UK Ministers and the role they play, but I would be interested to see what proposals the Scottish and Welsh Governments might bring forward in this space as well.

I hope that is sufficient reassurance to the hon. Member for Brent North. I very much look forward to his letter, but on that basis I ask him to withdraw the new clause.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister can ask, but he will not be successful. We will press it to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

1 Feb 2018, 1:02 p.m.

Mr Davies, I thank you and everybody concerned with this Bill. I am delighted that we have so thoroughly scrutinised this short yet important Bill over the last five Committee sessions. I thank Committee members for the constructive way in which they have engaged in the debate. I am pleased that we have completed proceedings within the allotted time. In fact, we have a little time to spare.

This has been an unusual Bill Committee. The Bill, in my view, is relatively uncontroversial and certainly quite short. Indeed, on Second Reading, I think a little unfairly, the hon. Member for Brent North called it a

“hollowed out little embarrassment of a Bill, which extends to just six pages and four schedules.”—[Official Report, 9 January 2018; Vol. 634, c. 223.]

I think he was calling it small and unimportant; I am interpreting the words “hollowed out little embarrassment” in that way. Therefore, I find it all the more remarkable that the Opposition have called some 37 votes on the Bill so far. I am not trying to make a wider political point—or maybe I am—but it was clear on Second Reading and now that they are against the UK having its own trade remedies, against the UK being able to benefit from the more than 40-plus EU trade agreements, and against UK companies participating in the £1.3 trillion global procurement market. I hope they will change their minds on Third Reading.

I also thank the Government Whip and the Opposition Whip, who have ensured that the Committee has run smoothly and effectively. We have had a helpful and constructive consideration of the Bill, and the debate has been superbly conducted by you, Mr Davies, and by Mrs Ryan and Mr Gray, in the Chair. I am very grateful for your and their guidance during our deliberations.

Further, I would like to pay tribute to the usual channels, who I know quite well from previous experiences in this House, for their help and guidance throughout. I also recognise in particular the hard work of Hansard in recording everything. I thank the Clerk for his advice, the Doorkeepers for keeping good order, and my excellent team of officials for their support. This is the Department for International Trade’s first ever piece of legislation, and the officials have done the Department very proud indeed.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Feb 2018, 1:05 p.m.

I, too, would like to express, on behalf of all my team, my thanks to you, Mr Davies, to Ms Ryan and Mr Gray, and to all the officials who so ably supported the Minister. We tried to throw as many difficult questions at him as possible, and they tried to field them and provide him with answers as quickly as possible. I have to say we were not always convinced by the answers he came up with, but we recognise the work that went into them and hope that we did not cause the officials too much trouble.

I pay particular tribute to Kenneth Fox, the Clerk of the Committee. He is an exemplary Clerk, and he aided us in ensuring that our amendments were substantive and all in good order. It was extremely helpful to us to be assisted by someone of his experience and wisdom—and calm. I say that because, as you know, Mr Davies, amendments are worked on until the last moment to ensure that they are tabled in good time, and Mr Fox did so with the greatest humour.

I am grateful to all my team: my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford South, for Sefton Central, for Cardiff North, for Warrington South, for Blaenau Gwent and for Warwick and Leamington. It has been an excellent team effort. I am delighted that they were all able to contribute to debate in a most positive way. I also thank the Government Members. I thank the Minister, who I think took every intervention he was offered, for his courtesy. I know that serving on such Committees is often a thankless task for Government Back Benchers, who are told by the Government Whip to sit quietly and not to take up too much of the proceedings, but when they did intervene, they did so with courtesy.

We have scrutinised the Bill in great detail. We have not come to an agreement—that much is clear. There are lacunae in the Bill that need to be remedied, and we will return to it on Report and subsequently. I thank everyone associated with the Committee and in particular you, Mr Davies, for conducting proceedings with absolute fairness and impeccable order.

Trade Bill (Seventh sitting)

(Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Tuesday 30th January 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It is right that MPs have a role and that the TRA reports to Parliament. That is why the TRA publishes the annual report and is answerable to the Secretary of State, who is answerable to Parliament. Publishing the TRA’s recommendations before the Secretary of State has made the decision based on them is not a good idea, for reasons I will outline.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 5:40 p.m.

Does that explain why the Government were so backward in making representations to the US International Trade Commission with respect to Bombardier? The Minister said that it would be inappropriate to lobby such an organisation. Is it the Government’s position that it is inappropriate for lobbying to take place when a trade remedies authority is considering whether dumping has taken place or what remedies might be appropriate? Is that his approach to defending British industry when it faces trade defence measures abroad?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 5:41 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is confusing different processes. The British Government made extensive representations to the parties and the ITC during the investigation process in the United States. That is the key difference. Of course people will be expected to make representations during the investigation process in the UK, but my point was about publication of the TRA’s recommendations between the investigation process and the Secretary of State’s pronouncement.

In any case, I dispute the hon. Gentleman’s point. The UK Government have put in enormous efforts: my boss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, spoke at length with Wilbur Ross, and the Business Secretary also made representations. Very extensive and successful representations were made to US authorities, to Boeing and other companies, and to the US Administration.

Amendment 25 could lead to unnecessary disruption of the market in the key period between the TRA’s recommendations and the Secretary of State’s decision.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 5:41 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 5:42 p.m.

Let me make a little more progress.

Amendment 25 could delay the Secretary of State’s decision. The evidence base for the TRA’s recommendations should be made available to the public after, not before, the Secretary of State accepts or rejects them, as required by World Trade Organisation agreement. That is the right time for the evidence base to be put in the public domain.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 5:42 p.m.

rose—

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 5:42 p.m.

I will take a late intervention from the hon. Gentleman.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 5:44 p.m.

It is only the one he deferred a few moments ago. I am grateful to the Minister, because he has engaged in debate and the Committee has been the better for it. However, he mentions the appropriate point for intervention. The American situation involved two decisions: the US Department of Commerce made an initial determination and then the US International Trade Commission had to look at whether any damage had been caused and recommend any appropriate charges. The situation was somewhat akin to a recommendation being made to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State deciding what to do about it. There is a real parallel here that the Minister is denying. As I am sure he acknowledges, amendment 24 would not set an arbitrary deadline; it would ensure that the Secretary of State laid the report before Parliament in a timely fashion.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 5:44 p.m.

May I end—again—by saying that I do not think it is right to make an exact comparison between the UK and US situations? As I said earlier, the design of the Trade Remedies Authority in the UK has been informed by international best practice, but it is fundamentally a different system. The right time for representations to be heard from businesses, consumers, MPs and other stakeholders is while evidence is being gathered, not between the TRA recommendation and the Secretary of State’s determination. On that basis, I ask the hon. Member for Livingston to withdraw amendment 42.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 6:31 p.m.

I accept the hon. Lady’s intervention, and she makes a case, but my point is that it is not necessary to have the review. These are existing agreements that, in a huge number of cases, are already in place. Some have been in place for a long time. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun says that an additional review process will be simple and effective, but I am not quite so sure. For example, the amendment makes neither reference to the intended product of such a review—how the review process would work—nor to the continued role of the devolved Administrations in the review after it has been reported.

I think it is much better that we stick with our position of consulting frequently and engaging with the devolved Administrations, without an extra review of agreements that are already in place. We have been clear that we will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations as we transition these agreements, therefore we do not need to commit this kind of review to legislation. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the clause.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 6:31 p.m.

It is appropriate to once again read out the long title of the Bill:

“To make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements”.

Everything that the Minister is saying ignores that the scope of the Bill precisely admits that we should be able to put into statute the procedure that the hon. Members for Livingston and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun have suggested.

The Minister has told the Committee that the Government

“will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations as we transition our current agreements”

and that:

“The Department for International Trade engages regularly with the devolved Administrations”.––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2018; c. 128.]

It is therefore surprising that the Government have not proposed any formal engagement procedure to ensure a statutory footing for consultation on the issues presented by the Bill—particularly given the Government’s approach to consultation thus far, which has been little more than lip service and press releases. An example of that was when the consultation for the Bill closed on 6 November and the Bill was published a few hours later on the morning of 7 November.

Modern trade agreements have extensive coverage, with chapters setting out substantial provisions in a range of areas, many of which might well be considered to touch upon matters that otherwise would be within the competence of the devolved authorities. We have gone over this ground in previous sittings, when we considered how trade agreements impact on our fishing industry, food standards, services regulation, agriculture, public services, procurement and so on. The day-to-day oversight and administration thereof may be wholly within aspects of devolved competence; however, the obligations that arise from a trade agreement might require changes to the way that those matters are managed. A question might then arise regarding when such a matter ceases to be a trade matter within the exclusive competence of the UK and becomes a matter within the competence of the respective devolved Administration.

That is why many other countries have set out formal consultation frameworks with their own constituent administrations, which may also have a degree of devolved competence. Indeed, the United States has such an engagement process to ensure that state-level representations can be fed into the negotiating process—albeit it is a process that is subject to controversy in various states that have sought to implement a much more robust consultation process, and have derailed the extension of the fast-track trade negotiating authority.

Canada has a similar process in order to ensure that, once an agreement has been concluded using the federal Government’s exclusive competence, it does not come unstuck at implementation stage. In his response to questions about the need for stakeholder engagement as early as possible in trade negotiations, our witness, Nick Ashton-Hart, noted that

“the political economy demands that you have the backing, as a negotiator, at home when you are sitting across the table from your counterparties and that they know that you have that…People know that you have to get to a sustainable deal also, and sometimes you have to do a concession at the right time to solve a problem in a domestic constituency for your counterparty”.––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 10, Q12.]

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun touched on the concerns raised by another of our witnesses, Professor Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, who noted that we cannot have a situation in which a trade agreement might be unpicked once it had been concluded. Therefore, he said,

“Parliament and the devolved Administrations need to have an important role in setting mandates, and there need to be consultation and information during the process.”—[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 23 January 2018; c. 58, Q111.]

The United Kingdom is clearly not unique in facing this matter; that is also the experience of other countries, many of which the Secretary of State is alleged to have identified as prospective gold trading partners. Those very countries may well wish to see a similar framework formally constituted in the UK before we come to the negotiating table. The European Union levelled that request at Canada prior to commencing negotiations on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. The JMC appears to be an entirely appropriate forum for such consultation in the UK’s case. It would provide us with an off-the-shelf committee with the express purpose of seeking to avoid such complications.

The memorandum of understanding between the UK and the devolved Administrations notes that the four respective Administrations agreed

“to alert each other as soon as practicable to relevant developments within their areas of responsibility, wherever possible, prior to publication”—

of course, the GPA, which the Minister did not refer to, is one such case that is quite specifically about implementation within the devolved Administrations’ competence—

“to give appropriate consideration to the views of the other administrations; and…to establish where appropriate arrangements that allow for policies for which responsibility is shared to be drawn up and developed jointly between the administrations.”

Furthermore, in recognition that a commitment to engage may not be sufficient in certain cases, the memorandum of understanding sets out provisions for a formal consultation framework to ensure that engagement on such matters is more than just lip service.

Acknowledging that there will, of course, be matters relating to international issues that will touch on devolved matters, the memorandum of understanding requires the fullest possible engagement on such matters and sets out the framework for the Joint Ministerial Committee. Its terms of reference are

“to consider non-devolved matters which impinge on devolved responsibilities, and devolved matters which impinge on non-devolved responsibilities…where the UK Government and the devolved administrations so agree, to consider devolved matters if it is beneficial to discuss their respective treatment in the different parts of the United Kingdom…to keep the arrangements for liaison between the UK Government and the devolved administrations under review; and…to consider disputes between the administrations.”

The Government could have considered their own appropriate framework or forum for a proper consultation process with the devolved authorities and other key stakeholders in advance of beginning trade negotiations. The Secretary of State has, for example, reconvened the Board of Trade, of which he has appointed himself the president. Of course, for the Board of Trade to be effective, it would likely require significant expansion of its membership. Currently, I believe it has the sum total of one person—namely, the Secretary of State himself.

The creation of a formal consultation forum is essential before and during the negotiating process. In that respect, we will support the new clause. Of course, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to our new clause 11—I hope it will be considered in a later sitting—which seeks to ensure that the JMC is convened for all trade agreements, including new trade agreements that correspond to existing EU agreements.

I hope that Government Members recognise from the Committee’s deliberations that this Bill contains a serious threat to the powers of the devolved Administrations, and that the installation of an appropriate consultation procedure to address such matters will assist Ministers in concluding agreements. Although this amendment seeks to mitigate any complications that might present at implementation stage after an agreement has been concluded, the Bill still fails to address the very serious concerns about the dilution of the devolved authorities’ powers in matters that may be considered within their devolved competence. In that respect, I ask the Government to address this matter either by supporting the new clause or by way of their own amendments to the Bill before it proceeds, with such amendments making clear that powers afforded to Ministers of the Crown under the Bill will not, and cannot, be used to undermine the rights and powers of the devolved Governments. If the Government do not seek to do that before the Bill progresses to its next stage, I assure the Minister that the Opposition will.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 6:41 p.m.

Very briefly, in response to that long speech I have only three points to make. First, there is no serious threat to the devolved Administrations. What we are talking about is the transition of existing free trade agreements. The hon. Gentleman’s points—his parallels with the United States and so on—seemed to relate entirely to future trade agreements and not to the continuity of existing trade agreements. I also point out to him that the Secretary of State for International Trade has not appointed himself President of the Board of Trade. The Prime Minister has appointed him President of the Board of Trade.

Most importantly, the Bill is all about continuity and the technical transition of existing free trade agreements. The hon. Gentleman’s points seem to relate to future trade agreements, which will be a matter for another day.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 6:56 p.m.

I am surprised that the official Opposition do not have anything to say to this clause. I thought that they took quite an interest in the application of the implementation period, but it appears not.

In any case, new clause 9 would require the Government to report to Parliament on how the Bill will be applied during the implementation period. I recognise the desire for clarity on how an implementation period will work and, specifically, how the powers in the Bill will be used in that period.

Irrespective of the exact terms of the implementation period, which need to be negotiated with the EU, as it stands the UK will no longer be part of existing EU FTAs or the government procurement agreement on leaving the EU. We will need the powers in the Bill to ensure continuity in our trading arrangements.

I also recognise the desire for clarity specifically on how trade remedies will work during an implementation period. We want to provide continuity to British industries, including retaining meaningful access to trade remedies.

Parliament will have plenty of opportunity to scrutinise an agreement between the UK and the EU, including on an implementation period. We have already committed to a vote on the final deal, and major policies in the withdrawal agreement will be enacted through primary legislation in the form of the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun to withdraw his new clause.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 6:57 p.m.

The idea that the official Opposition have nothing to say on the matter is entirely wrong, but we have little to say because we agree with the new clause that is being proposed. We believe that it is eminently sensible. We are entering into a transition period, and it is right that Parliament should be brought up to date with what the Government’s intentions are. The new clause would do that. It is perfectly sensible.

Trade Bill (Sixth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Tuesday 30th January 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:01 p.m.

The Government have always been clear that we will maintain our very high standards on food and animal welfare, and for protection in that space. There will be no race to the bottom. Nothing in free trade agreements precludes a Government from regulating in the domestic environment. I hope that that is enough reassurance for the hon. Gentleman. On protecting the environment, high standards and high quality are what our domestic and global consumers demand, and that is what we should provide.

To be clear, nothing in the Bill would allow us to do a free trade agreement with the United States because, as we know, the United States does not have a free trade agreement with the European Union. While the hon. Member for Bradford South gave an interesting speech of some length about what may or may not happen in any future trade agreement with the United States, it is worth mentioning that the Bill does not cover free trade agreements with the United States. Any future free trade agreement with the United States must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers, and uphold food safety and animal welfare standards. However, that is a matter for a future day; it is not relevant to the Bill before us.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 2:03 p.m.

Surely the Minister appreciates that the examples of the USA were given in order to clearly illustrate the principles. At no point was it suggested that those examples were a necessary follow on. However, they illustrated the principles, and the Minister must appreciate that and take it seriously, in terms of the amendment.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

We take incredibly seriously food safety standards, animal welfare and so on. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that he has serious concerns in those spaces in respect of any of the 40-plus current EU trade agreements that we are seeking to move into UK law, perhaps he could let me know.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to adumbrate on that. The particular concerns relating to growth hormones in beef are, of course, of equal importance in the context of any future UK-Canada trade agreement, given that Canadian beef farmers are permitted to use growth hormones in a way that our farmers are not. The EU granted a higher quota to hormone-free Canadian beef exports in the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement negotiations. It was only popular pressure that prevented the European Commission from relaxing the ban on imports of hormone beef. We simply want to ensure that Parliament is the place where this country takes decisions on whether to relax or tighten our food standards. We do not want those decisions taken in secret trade negotiations and then imposed on us through the excessive powers in the Bill.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:04 p.m.

I am certain that CETA is consistent with our food safety and animal welfare standards. What is more, I think the majority of Labour MPs agree with me. Last February, Labour MPs split 86 in favour of CETA and 68 against, so whatever concerns the hon. Member for Brent North has, I gently suggest that he tries to persuade his own party before coming to see the Government.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 2:05 p.m.

Again, I am happy to take on the Minister on that. He is talking about something that happened before the previous election, and as personnel change, so perhaps does the wish of the members of the parliamentary Labour party. However, that is not really the point. He will also find that those people on the Labour Benches who wanted to support CETA on that occasion seem now to have changed their views about whether CETA—the Canadian model—is a good model for us to pursue in the trade negotiations. Most of them seem to have turned tail and run to the other side.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:06 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is trying to mix up the transitional and existing trade agreements with our future trading relationship with the European Union—which, I remind the Committee, is also not a subject of the Bill. I think he said that his vote against CETA was before the previous election, and if he is suggesting that he might have changed his mind on CETA, I am all ears. When we come to ratification of the treaty, I would personally welcome him as a sinner that repenteth, were he to come into the Lobby with Conservative Members to support the Canadian free trade agreement.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:06 p.m.

I will not give way. We are getting a little off the point.

We are absolutely clear that all existing commitments on standards and regulations will remain when those agreements are transitioned. That is in line with our clearly articulated principle that our intent is to transition solely the existing effect of the agreements. The amendment is therefore unnecessary and I ask the hon. Member for Bradford South to withdraw it.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:32 p.m.

Because I like to keep legislation as brief as possible and, as I shall explain, I do not think it necessary for us to write that obligation into the Bill. Of course, we would continue to engage should we need to extend the clause beyond its sunset five years after exit day.

I was intrigued by the exchange between the hon. Members for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and for Brent North. I am still trying to find out why, on Thursday, the Labour Front-Bench team did not support the amendment promoted by the Welsh Government. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman properly explained, but perhaps when he responds he can throw a little more light on why he has seemingly jettisoned his colleagues from Wales, one of whom is on this very Committee.

On the requirement for a legislative consent motion, we have been clear that we are seeking such a motion for the Bill. I heard what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said about that, and I am sure that we will engage further. We are obviously talking to the devolved Administrations so that we can work towards delivering a Bill that will benefit the whole UK. Given that, we do not think that the formal commitments on consultation and engagement in amendment 35 would add substantively to the Bill. I therefore ask hon. Members not to press the amendments.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have no intention of withdrawing amendment 11, so we need to press it to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 1:30 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 13, in schedule 2, page 12, line 5, leave out from “section 1(1)” to the end of line 6 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.”

This would require regulations implementing the Agreement on Government Procurement to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

This amendment is a simple but vital first attempt to restore democracy to the Trade Bill. It is simple because it replaces the negative resolution procedure the Government wish to use for future regulations under paragraph 2(1) of schedule 2 with an affirmative resolution procedure. It is vital because, without that, the Government have carte blanche to introduce regulations to implement the obligations arising from our independent membership of the GPA without the slightest hint of anything resembling parliamentary scrutiny. While the UK is a member of the World Trade Organisation in its own right and will continue to be so after Brexit, we are a member of the WTO’s plurilateral government procurement agreement only by virtue of our EU membership. We know that the Government will have to initiate a separate parliamentary procedure under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 to prepare for the UK to rejoin the GPA in its own right. I am pleased the Minister made the commitment in our first line-by-line session last Thursday that there will be a vote in Parliament to decide on the terms under which we rejoin the GPA.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 2:43 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. That is not a correct assessment of what I said on Thursday. I said we would allow the power for Parliament to bring forward a vote under the Act. It is clearly stated in Hansard.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 2:44 p.m.

Good Lord, Mr Davies, it’s a jolly good job I have an extract from the Hansard here. I will press on and then quote from it.

CRAGA does not require there to be a debate or a vote on any treaty laid before Parliament under its terms, as has been repeatedly confirmed by the House of Commons Library via an expert witness from the Hansard Society and by everybody else who has read the Act or knows what it says. Yet, it certainly leaves the possibility open for Government to hold that vote if they are prepared to do so. Again, I am pleased the Minister reaffirmed last week not only that it is possible under CRAGA for the Government to bring forward a vote on the UK’s terms of entry into the GPA, but that

“the terms on which the UK enters the GPA in our own right will be subject to a separate vote in Parliament.”—[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2018; c. 131.]

Those are the words the Minister actually used. I am surprised he wants to cavil about them now. As he knows, our dissatisfaction with CRAGA is that it includes no requirement for a debate or a vote on a treaty laid before Parliament under its provisions. We are dependent on the good will of the Government as to whether Parliament is granted or denied the opportunity for a vote.

In this instance, I thought the Government had confirmed that there will be a vote, not that there might be, depending on the Labour party, so we look forward to the Government introducing that debate in Government time. However, that in no way deals with the broader issue of why Parliament should be dependent on the Government’s good will to have the opportunity to exercise its rights to due democratic process.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 2:52 p.m.

Again, my hon. Friend puts it very succinctly and very well.

The delegated powers memorandum argues that the negative resolution procedure is appropriate to implement the UK’s obligations as an independent member of the GPA. It argues that it would be inappropriate to demand primary legislation to bring in the legislative changes necessary to reflect our new status as an independent GPA member, as this could introduce a significant delay in the proceedings.

Labour Members agree; we are not opposing the Government on that point. Primary legislation would be inappropriate to implement our obligations under the GPA once we had fully debated the terms on which we were joining the agreement, as the Minister promised us last Thursday that we will. Yet the issue here is not primary versus secondary legislation; it is negative versus affirmative in respect of the resolution procedure that governs the secondary legislation.

We simply do not believe that the negative procedure can be appropriate, precisely because of the lasting damage that could be done to contractors currently providing councils with goods and services if the regulations about Government procurement are made wrongly. Nor do we accept the Government’s contention that they must be allowed to use the negative resolution procedure because of time pressures inherent in the GPA itself. It is entirely spurious to suggest that the 30-day period between depositing the UK’s instrument of accession to the GPA and the accession coming into force is in any way coterminous with the drafting of a statutory instrument and its passage through Parliament.

The guidance on drafting statutory instruments issued by the Government Legal Service recommends allowing an absolute minimum of 22 weeks for the very simplest of negative instruments, with more complex ones requiring anything up to 61 weeks from their inception to the time they come into force—that is, well over year. Affirmative resolution instruments require only marginally longer, depending again on how complex they are—the Government Legal Service suggests allowing 26 to 67 weeks. In both cases, the process requires many months of planning beyond the 30-day period stipulated in the GPA. Government officials will have had to start work on the secondary legislation months in advance of depositing the UK’s accession instruments with the WTO, and they can just as easily factor in an affirmative resolution procedure as they can a negative one.

When it comes to the future accession of other WTO members to the GPA, which may well happen, the situation is even more acute. Here, Members of Parliament will have had no opportunity to consider any of the ramifications of opening up our public procurement contracts to new countries. So the only chance we will have of subjecting those new regulations to any scrutiny will come through the procedure that we enshrine in this Bill.

The WTO lists 10 countries that are in the process of acceding to the GPA: Albania, Australia, China, Georgia, Jordan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Oman, Russia, Tajikistan and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Five other WTO members have undertaken commitments in their WTO accession protocols to initiate accession to the GPA: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and the Seychelles. If and when they do accede, the UK will need to open up its Government procurement contracts to suppliers from every one of those countries. Once again, we agree with the Government that it would be overly burdensome to require new primary legislation every time another country accedes to the GPA. We are not asking for that. But we disagree that new Government regulations to implement our obligations should just be passed through on the nod. That is why we are arguing for the affirmative procedure in this case too.

Once again, the Government’s argument that we are constrained by the 30-day period between a country’s accession and our having to grant that country access to the UK’s public procurement market is entirely spurious. We will have been party to the negotiations surrounding their accession for months beforehand, giving Government officials ample time to prepare the requisite instrument for either negative or affirmative resolution.

This is a blunder. Even where a statutory instrument is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, the scrutiny that it undergoes is still remarkably light. MPs who have previously been assigned to Delegated Legislation Committees—and there will be many in this House—know they are not encouraged by the Whips to engage and speak. The affirmative resolution procedure has been called farcical and a waste of time. The Hansard Society notes, not surprisingly, that this system is “not fit for purpose”. It concludes with the stinging rebuke to all of us who are responsible for the proper functioning of Parliament that

“MPs can no longer be indifferent to the inadequacies in the system. They must now finally take seriously their democratic responsibility for delegated legislation.”

That is why the Labour party has tabled amendments to the Bill calling for an upgrading of the process for parliamentary scrutiny in respect of regulations stemming from our new trade obligations. As we have noted repeatedly, those obligations are serious. They are binding commitments made in international treaties that cannot easily be repealed. Domestic legislation can be repealed much more easily. If there was ever an example of secondary legislation crying out for proper parliamentary scrutiny and oversight, this is it. For the regulations necessary to implement obligations arising from the UK’s independent membership of the GPA, we consider the affirmative resolution procedure to be appropriate and proportionate. However imperfect the system is, at least the affirmative procedure provides Members of Parliament with the possibility of a debate and a vote. It is then up to us to make proper use of that opportunity.

Having heard the objections of such an independent body as the Hansard Society, I hope Government Members will agree with us—on this amendment at least—and support it.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3 p.m.

The UK currently participates in the government procurement agreement, known as the GPA, through our EU membership. The GPA offers UK businesses guaranteed access to approximately £1.3 trillion per annum of global public contract opportunities. We intend to remain in the GPA with the same rights and obligations that we currently enjoy as part of the European Union. Those were negotiated by the EU on behalf of member states for the 1994 GPA. The 2012 revised GPA was negotiated by the EU and scrutinised by the European scrutiny Committees in Parliament.

The power in clause 1 is a narrow one designed to allow us to implement the GPA as an independent member, as well as to reflect new parties joining and crucially—the hon. Member for Brent North rather overlooked this—to allow existing parties to withdraw from it. It will be a case of the UK using clause 1 to reflect having a new status within an existing, established agreement on procurement.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:01 p.m.

I agree with the Minister’s interpretation of what he has just read out. Does he accept that he also said the following:

“the terms on which the UK enters the GPA in our own right will be subject to a separate vote in Parliament”?—[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2018; c. 131.]

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:02 p.m.

Hence, the clarification, twice over, to be absolutely precise how that vote would work. I know the hon. Gentleman has attacked the negative resolution procedure, but I do not remember any such exhortation when he was a Minister under Tony Blair—I did not listen to every single thing he said in those years, but I do not recall that. I think he would have troubled the scorers if he had attacked such a procedure at the time under CRAG, which as we know is an Act of Parliament introduced by the last Labour Government.

The hon. Member for Brent North confirmed last week that he did indeed vote for CRAG. He said it was important in the days when the treaties in question had already been scrutinised by the EU and scrutiny was also passed down to

“this Parliament, where the European Scrutiny Committee…would examine forensically the contents passed from Europe”.—[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 25 January 2018; c. 149.]

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the revised GPA in 2012 went through the very process he described to the Committee and the very process that he voted for in 2010.

The hon. Gentleman asked why the GPA power is not time-limited. The answer is that new accessions to the GPA are covered by the clause to ensure that the UK does not breach its own GPA commitments. It is also essential to have the power to reflect withdrawals to ensure that withdrawing parties do not continue to enjoy guaranteed access to UK procurement markets. I will speak in more detail about withdrawals from the GPA.

The hon. Gentleman asserted that the GPA power continues into perpetuity, including the Henry VIII power. There is no Henry VIII power in clause 1, which allows for the implementation of the GPA. The powers in clause 1 are narrow in scope. They are designed to allow the UK to make legislative changes that reflect its new status as an independent member but, none the less, as a member of an existing and settled agreement.

The UK needs to use the power in clause 1 quickly to prevent UK businesses from losing guaranteed access to valuable procurement markets. The revised GPA has already been scrutinised by the EU and the European Scrutiny Committee, using the powerful microscope the hon. Gentleman described last week and for which he voted not so long ago.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:08 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We might be going too far down this road. I do not want to sound in any way condescending to a new Member, and my only advice to him, having been a Member in this House for 12 years, would be that the receipt of 5,000 emails from 650 constituencies is an average of nine emails per constituency. If he is suggesting that we make public policy, and that each of us makes our policy decisions, based on the opinions of nine constituents, I do not believe that would be a helpful road for us to go down.

Returning to the GPA, the UK’s independent membership will be considered under the CRAG process, meaning Parliament will be able to scrutinise the terms of the UK joining the GPA before the GPA can join, as I referred to in the debate on Thursday. The Government therefore believe that the negative resolution procedure provides an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny for the power to implement the GPA in clause 1.

Furthermore, the Opposition amendment would also apply the affirmative resolution procedure when the UK uses clause 1 to make regulations to reflect new parties joining the GPA or—this is a very important point—existing parties withdrawing from it. In the case of new and withdrawing parties, it is important that the UK is able to respond quickly and flexibly. Once a new party deposits its instrument of accession, there is a period of only 30 days before that accession comes into force. The UK will then be under an immediate obligation to provide that new party with guaranteed access to UK procurement opportunities covered by the GPA. If the UK failed to offer the new party this guaranteed access, it would be in breach of its GPA commitment. On the other hand, a party to the GPA can decide to withdraw unilaterally, and where a party notifies the GPA committee that they intend to withdraw, they will cease to be a GPA member just 60 days later. Therefore, it is vital we are able to react quickly to such a notification.

If the power to amend UK legislation to reflect parties withdrawing from the GPA were subject to any affirmative procedure, the UK might not be able to legislate in time to remove the party by the 60-day time limit, which, of course, could result in the UK contracting authorities continuing to give guaranteed access to UK markets to a party that is leaving or had already left the GPA, and was therefore no longer entitled to access.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am listening carefully to the Minister. Does that 60-day timescale for countries seceding from the GPA mean that in those cases the Minister will not be able to fulfil the guidelines for statutory instruments that I referred to? If that is the case, it suggests that at an absolute minimum a statutory instrument, even on the negative procedure that he proposes, would only be for 22 weeks and at the outside for 60 weeks. Is he confirming to the Committee that in those circumstances, the guidelines laid down by the Government and Parliament in this area, even for the negative procedure, would not apply?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

I want to make sure of the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question. Perhaps I can pledge to write to him, copying in other members of the Committee and you, Mr Davies, on precisely how this fits in with our statutory instrument procedures.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:11 p.m.

To conclude, the withdrawing party would have no obligation to give UK businesses reciprocal access to its procurement markets, and it is of course vital that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise new accessions to the GPA.

I reassured the Committee last week and earlier today that we want to ensure a clear and significant role for Parliament in scrutinising future trade agreements. The provisions will enable those agreements to be completed effectively and efficiently, while respecting due process in Parliament. New accessions to the GPA will be included within that scrutiny process. That will ensure that Parliament can scrutinise new accessions during accession negotiations. The power that we are discussing will be used after that scrutiny, and approval of the accession, so I invite the hon. Member for Brent North to withdraw the amendment.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:12 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance that he will write to the Committee, but I will press the amendment to a vote, because it makes an important point.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:23 p.m.

Again, my hon. Friend makes the point about the discrepancy between the scrutiny available to us here in this sovereign Parliament and the scrutiny available to members of the European Parliament. It would seem entirely at odds with the Government’s stated purpose for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill if we ended up having fewer scrutiny powers than Members of the European Parliament. That would seem to be a travesty.

I look forward with perhaps slightly more than the usual expectation to the Minister’s response to the amendment, given that this is the issue on which not only the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield spoke on Second Reading, but on which several other hon. Members from across the House registered their profound concern. This is the moment when we discover whether the Government are prepared to heed the calls of right hon. and hon. Members alike and look at the Bill in a much more sensible way.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:24 p.m.

Let me reassure hon. Members that I listened very carefully to what the hon. Member for Brent North said. First, let me repeat that the majority of free trade agreements within the scope of the Bill have already been ratified, and Parliament had the opportunity to scrutinise them during ratification. Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee also scrutinised these agreements when they were negotiated, included, signed and provisionally applied. They had, of course, already gone through the European Parliament process as well, to which the hon. Member for Warrington South helpfully drew our attention.

The Government have made clear their intention to ratify by exit date all the EU free trade agreements that currently provisionally apply, including the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement, and the economic partnership agreement with the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.

The hon. Member for Brent North drew attention to the comments of a South African Minister. To be honest, I cannot remember precisely whom he referred to, but for clarity I refer him to the memorandum of understanding signed by the Secretary of State for International Trade in South Africa in either August or September. Both parties specifically agreed to transition the agreement and maintain continuity, without substantive change. Whatever the hon. Gentleman’s South African said, the memorandum of understanding is absolutely clear in that regard. As I said to the International Trade Committee last week, 70-plus countries have agreed in principle to maintain continuity in trading arrangements. For example, we signed a similar memorandum with the CARIFORUM group to do precisely that.

Parliament’s scrutiny of these agreements, which have already been scrutinised, will be guaranteed by the process under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. As we have made clear, this is a technical exercise to secure continuity in our existing trading arrangements, not an opportunity to renegotiate the terms of existing agreements. That means that further scrutiny of those agreements, the benefits of which are already felt by businesses and consumers, is unnecessary. As we have made clear, we want Parliament to play a vital role in the scrutiny of future trade agreements that are not covered by the Bill, but that is for a separate occasion. We made clear in the trade White Paper and in this Committee on Thursday that our future trade policy must be transparent and inclusive.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:28 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I very much appreciate the way, as a new Member, he is getting stuck into the Bill, but I remind him that, in terms of securing the continuity of agreements, more than 70 countries have now agreed that there will not be substantive change. I mentioned South Africa, with which we have a memorandum of understanding saying that. There is no need to re-scrutinise agreements that are substantively the same and have already been through the proper scrutiny processes of both Houses. That is why we made clear in the trade White Paper and in this Committee on Thursday that our future trade policy must be transparent and inclusive, and that Parliament will be engaged throughout the process. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Brent North to withdraw amendment 16.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We intend to press amendment 16 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:32 p.m.

I think we are potentially about to have quite a similar debate to the one that we just had, but let me be as succinct as I can. I remind Members that this power will be used only to introduce regulations that reflect current obligations in our EU trade agreements. That means that we are not seeking to change the effects of our existing trade agreements through the power. The agreements have already been examined by Parliament as part of its regular scrutiny of EU business. Ratified free trade agreements have already been through the normal parliamentary scrutiny process for treaty ratification.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:32 p.m.

The Minister said that the Government are not proposing to change the provisions in any of the treaties. I think he said earlier in our debate that 71 countries had already agreed. Could he just clarify for the Committee once and for all, because he has failed to do so thus far, whether that includes Norway, Switzerland and Turkey?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:34 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman, but we have already covered that ground as well. The agreements with Norway, Turkey and Switzerland will inevitably be dependent on our future trading relationship with the European Union, because of the unique way that each of those countries operates in conjunction with the European Union.

The hon. Gentleman says that we are not proposing changes. It is just as important to recognise that more than 70 of our partners do not want substantive changes to the agreements either. Perhaps we need to put aside for a moment some of the ways in which the Bill operates, and think about what is in the interests of our trading partners. It is as much in their interests as ours to have continuity of the existing agreements. It is therefore not a surprise to me that more than 70 countries have said that they are not seeking substantive changes to the agreements.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:39 p.m.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the comments I made earlier: none of the 70-plus countries that we have spoken to has said that it wants to do that. It would not be in their interests for them to do so, for reasons of maintaining continuity in our trade relations. That is very much in our and their interests.

Let me finally remind the Committee that Parliament still has oversight of statutory instruments introduced under the negative resolution procedure, using well-established processes as outlined in CRAG. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Brent North to withdraw the amendment.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:38 p.m.

We will press amendment 17 to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:41 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 20, in schedule 2, page 12, line 6, at end insert—

“(1A) A statutory instrument containing regulations of a Minister of the Crown under section 2(1) relating to an international trade agreement other than a free trade agreement which does not meet the criteria under section 2(4) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

This would require regulations implementing an international trade agreement which is not a free trade agreement and which does not correspond to a prior or existing EU agreement to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

This is the final amendment in our series trying to introduce just a modicum of parliamentary scrutiny into the Bill. It refers to the last category of trade agreements that have not yet been covered in the previous amendments.

If hon. Members cast their minds back to amendment 3, which we presented in the first line-by-line sitting last Thursday, that amendment sought to expand the remit of the Bill to include not just agreements that correspond to existing EU agreements but those with countries where there is no prior EU agreement in place. The major set of amendments that I presented at that sitting sought to introduce a full process of preparation, debate and scrutiny up to the point of signature of free trade agreements within the category of comprehensive agreements that need to be notified under GATT article XXIV or GATS article V. Amendment 20 picks up on trade agreements that are not free trade agreements for the purposes of GATT article XXIV or GATS article V, and that do not correspond to an existing EU agreement. Without the amendment, they would not be covered anywhere in the expanded Bill as we envisage it.

We do not believe that it would be an appropriate use of parliamentary time to subject every new mutual recognition agreement to the full rigour of impact assessment and mandate-setting parliamentary scrutiny. We believe it would be enough to have the minimum scrutiny of the affirmative resolution procedure, which allows for a debate and vote where it is thought necessary, but which also allows for the swift passage of regulations through Parliament where they are clearly non-controversial.

I will point out here that some mutual recognition agreements and other agreements are potentially very controversial. In the case of mutual recognition agreements with countries whose regulatory systems are radically different from our own, such as the United States, there could be huge pitfalls in allowing for mutual recognition where it could lead to products entering the UK market that have not been subjected to the rigorous tests that we demand in our jurisdiction. If anything, we are erring on the side of being too pragmatic in suggesting that those agreements be subjected to the affirmative resolution procedure only, seeing as the affirmative procedure can be open to the abuse I described earlier in my reference to the Hansard Society’s report. At least we can take comfort in the fact that a Delegated Legislation Committee would have the power to hold the most controversial regulations up to scrutiny and subject them to a vote in Parliament, which would be a quantum leap from what the Bill currently offers.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 3:44 p.m.

Clause 2 would limit the scope of agreements on which the power can be used to those where the other party had a free trade agreement signed with the EU before exiting. Amendment 20 would establish a procedure whereby the power is used in relation to agreements falling outside those parameters. As we do not wish to extend the scope of clause 2 to allow the power to be used in relation to more agreements, it follows that we do not need to apply a procedure to the implementation of such agreements. The amendment, therefore, is unnecessary in every way.

However, if the spirit of the amendment is to explore what constraints we have drafted into the clause 2 power, I am happy to provide reassurance to the Committee. As I have said before, the power can be used only in relation to free trade agreements with countries that have signed EU free trade agreements before exit day. A free trade agreement covers substantially all trade notifiable to the World Trade Organisation. To be clear, the power cannot be used to amend primary legislation except when that primary legislation is retained EU law. It cannot be used to implement a trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union itself. Nor can it be used to extend or create new criminal offences or create new fees or charges.

The power has a five-year sunset clause from exit day. If the Government wish to extend this period, they may do so only with the permission of both Houses. We and our trading partners are clear that this will be a technical exercise to ensure continuity in trading relationships. It is not an opportunity to change or renegotiate the terms of these EU agreements. Therefore, I ask the hon. Member for Brent North to withdraw the amendment.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 3:46 p.m.

I do not wish to shock the Committee, but we will not press the amendment to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

Yes, and the authority is very transparent in its operation. A lot of how the authority operates is outlined in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which is being debated down the corridor. I strongly feel that there is really good transparency in the arrangements we have made regarding the authority’s independence, arm’s length nature and specialist and independent evidence-gathering. We are also ensuring that it is accountable to the Government and that, at the end of the day, a political decision is still taken about whether to impose trade remedies.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 4:40 p.m.

I think we would all welcome a sense that this body was independent, so can it be right that one person with a particular view of trade should be empowered under the Bill to appoint every single member of the TRA, including the chair? Depending on the order in which they make the appointments, that is entirely possible under the Bill.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 4:40 p.m.

No, it is not.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is shaking his head, but under the Bill, so long as the Secretary of State appoints the chair last—there is nothing to prevent him doing that—he is empowered, absolutely on his own, to put his friends, cronies and the people who have his view of trade in every single position. He would then appoint the chair. If he appoints the chair first, he has to do the rest in conjunction with others.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 4:42 p.m.

Let me be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman. It is quite clearly laid out in the appointments procedure that the Secretary of State appoints the chair, and the other non-executives in consultation with the chair. In exceptional circumstances, the Secretary of State can appoint the chief executive, but only if the chair has not yet been appointed. That is laid out in the legislation. The executive members are not appointed by the Secretary of State. It is important to understand that the Secretary of State does not appoint the whole body.

On top of that, the appointments process of course follows good governance principles and rules on public appointments. For the benefit of the Committee, I will outline those rules. First, the Government are responsible for setting out the processes and principles that underpin the management of public bodies. Secondly, there are explicit rules on the roles of Ministers and Departments in the public appointments process. The rules outline the role of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, who is the independent regulator of public appointments. I am sure they would take more than a casual interest in the TRA, were the case that the hon. Member for Brent North outlined to transpire.

The rules also include the governance code for public appointments. We have worked with governance experts in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury to ensure that the TRA complies with those governance rules and others. The rules include guidance on managing public money and all the usual protections we would expect to see in an appointments process.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 4:43 p.m.

Will the Minister, in the light of his remarks, comment on schedule 4(2)(1)? It states:

“The TRA is to consist of…a Chair appointed by the Secretary of State…other non-executive members appointed by the Secretary of State…a chief executive appointed by the Chair with the approval of the Secretary of State or, if the first Chair has not been appointed, by the Secretary of State, and…other executive members appointed by the Chair.”

In other words, the majority of the Committee—all the non-executive members, the chair and the chief executive—can be appointed by one individual: the Secretary of State.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 4:43 p.m.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to later in the schedule. If he would care to turn over the page, it states:

“The Secretary of State must consult the Chair before appointing the other non-executive members.”

He is being highly selective in choosing elements of the Bill that appear to suit his argument.

Most importantly, these are public appointments, so we will of course have a standard competitive process following good governance principles and rules on public appointments. The successful candidates will be selected based on whether they have the right skills and experience to deliver this new UK-wide function effectively. The arrangements are broadly consistent with those of equivalent arm’s length bodies.

On the role of Parliament and amendments 21 and 22, it is important to ensure that the TRA’s senior leadership, and particularly its chairman, are in place as early as possible to enable the TRA to be operational by the time the UK leaves the EU. That will ensure continuity for UK industry. Giving the International Trade Committee a role in the appointment of members to the TRA, including its chair, would add additional stages to the appointment of non-executive members, thereby delaying the process. More significantly, referring back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford, it would risk politicising the appointment process, thereby undermining the TRA’s status as an independent and impartial body.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 4:48 p.m.

I think we are in one of those cycles; I am alleged to have impugned the hon. Gentleman by saying that he impugned my hon. Friend the Member for Corby. I will just leave it on the record that my hon. Friend is a doughty defender of the steel industry in the House, and through his influence with the Government.

I think the hon. Member for Sefton Central suggested that the Secretary of State should not appoint members at all. We need the Secretary of State to appoint the non-executive members in order to ensure that they are directly accountable to an elected representative with responsibility for the whole UK, because ultimately trade remedy measures will be taken across the UK. That person is quite properly the Secretary of State, who is accountable to Parliament. That is broadly in line with what happens in other arm’s length bodies.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about putting in place the right framework for the TRA. We are clear that we will operate a robust trade remedies regime to protect UK industry from injury caused by unfair trading practices and unforeseen surges in imports. I said of the TRA at the very beginning that free trade does not mean trade without rules. Rules are incredibly important, and making sure we have a strong defensive capability is a key part of that. That is why there will be a presumption in favour of measures in all dumping and subsidies investigations—that is in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill.

It is right that there is a mechanism for identifying whether measures are likely to have a disproportionate impact on other economic actors in the UK, such as downstream industries and consumers, and whether they might have a regional impact or an impact in one of the nations of the United Kingdom. The economic interest test ensures that the trade remedy system takes into account wider economic considerations in addition to the interests of UK producer industries. It is a chance to step back and consider whether measures would be in the best economic interests of the UK and will ensure that measures are not imposed where that is not the case.

Points were raised about different balances within the board. We have to come back to the overriding factor that should prevail to ensure that we comply with good governance principles: appointments are made following an open, competitive process on the basis of merit and on the basis of being able to discharge the function of looking at the whole question of a particular issue that might be prompting a trade remedy on a UK-wide basis. That is why it is important that we have built appropriate processes into the framework set out in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill to ensure that impacts on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are given due consideration.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 4:52 p.m.

The Minister is being extremely generous in giving way. Before he finishes his peroration, would he agree with me that there is a sensible distinction to be made between the executive members and the non-executive members of the TRA? Executive members are expected to be specialists. They are expected to have specialist trade knowledge or specialist knowledge that could determine whether dumping has taken place and so on. The non-executive members have more of a representative function. In that context, would he not see that that distinction in the amendments and others we support has some purchase?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 4:53 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention because it allows me to say that I do not agree. The non-executive members are not intended to be representatives of particular interests or particular parts of the United Kingdom, or particular sectors or producers or consumers or trade unions. The idea is that all members of the board have the ability to think right across the question of what is happening in terms of the injury that has been created or reported to have been created. What is the best way of assessing all the evidence? What is the best way of doing, for example, the economic interest test? I entirely disagree with him. These people are not representatives. They are able to take a dispassionate, evidence-based and informed decision, looking at all of the available evidence.

The TRA will consider the wider impact of trade remedy measures as part of the economic interest test. As part of that process, the TRA will consider the impact of measures on different groups across the UK, including any regional or distributional consideration. It is important to understand that its members do not have to be, and in fact should not be, representatives of those regional distributional considerations or producer or consumer and so on. They are designed to look at the evidence and come to a recommendation based on the overall evidence in front of them. It will also consider the likely impact on affected industries and consumers. We would expect the TRA to gather information where relevant to inform the economic interest test. For those reasons, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Tuesday 30th January 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:35 a.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention because he reinforces the very point that I am trying to establish. Despite the processes that are currently in place for scrutiny of trade deals as they proceed through Europe, and ultimately through the European Scrutiny Committee and through the House under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 procedure, we have here a situation in which a deal that was going to be concluded between the EU and another country can proceed to be signed, but not implemented. Then, in the lacuna—that is, the space between that signature and our leaving the EU—we could be confronted by the Government with a completely different set of trade relations. The trade agreement could be totally different, yet, under the Bill, the Government would have the power to sign and implement it simply because they had already signed a previous agreement before we had left the EU. That cannot be the right procedure for what could be completely new issues under that future agreement.

In one sense, the amendment is a modest one, given the seriousness of the issue it addresses. It merely seeks to exclude from the antidemocratic provisions of the Bill any regulations stemming from treaties such as a future UK-Japan trade agreement, where the correspondent EU agreement will have been signed but not yet ratified, along with all the scrutiny that ratification requires.

Other EU trade agreements could fall into this same category: the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, the text of which is also being prepared for signing at some point this year; the EU-Singapore free trade agreement which has been initialled but held up by internal EU discussions as to whether it is a mixed agreement or exclusive EU competence, leading to the European Court of Justice ruling on this issue in May last year; and, potentially, some of the economic partnership agreements still to be finalised between the EU and different groupings of African, Caribbean and Pacific states, which were criticised so trenchantly by Professor Alan Winters of the UK Trade Policy Observatory in his oral evidence to the Committee last week. Also in this category is CETA, the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between the EU and Canada, which has been signed but not yet fully ratified, as it is a mixed agreement requiring ratification in each of the EU member states, in addition to the centralised EU institutions of the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

Finally, the amendment tightens up the language of subsections (3) and (4) by requiring not just that the EU and the other signatory or signatories should have ratified trade agreements, prior to Brexit, but that they should have done so with each other. The Bill as it stands simply says that they must have signed “a” trade agreement; it does not say that they have to have signed it with Japan—with the corresponding party. This is ridiculous. The Minister is looking confused. If he wants to intervene, I would be happy to give way to him on this point because it is material.

Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 9:38 a.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. I am a little confused about his position on CETA. If CETA is not yet ratified by all the EU28 countries, the amendment, if it became law, would effectively prevent the UK from transitioning CETA to be a UK-only agreement. I know that the hon. Gentleman is opposed to CETA, and he represents a minority view within his party. However, the great majority of Labour MPs welcome CETA and voted in favour of it. It is also something that has already taken effect, so the effect of his amendment would be to take us out of the provisions of CETA that have already been in place and been provisionally adopted since September.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:38 a.m.

The Minister, of course, chose not to respond to the point I allowed him to intervene on because of his confusion.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 9:37 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to explain my confusion.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:39 a.m.

I am happy to address the Minister’s point and have set out the Labour Front-Bench position very clearly. He should know that the provisions of the amendment do not do what he has claimed they do. What it says is that there must be proper parliamentary scrutiny. He is denying precisely the opportunity for that to happen when a treaty has been signed but not yet ratified. The point of the amendment is to ensure that proper scrutiny can take place and that ratification can have taken place to ensure that.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. Let me reassure you that, by exit day, the Government aim to have ratified all EU mixed free trade agreements that are currently provisionally applied. They include, for example, the EU-Canada CETA agreement and the Southern African Development Community co-operation in accreditation.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:53 a.m.

If it is the Minister’s intention, as he says, to do what the amendment asks him to do, namely to apply these clauses only to agreements that have been ratified—and he says that they will all have been ratified—what problem does he have with accepting the amendment?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 9:55 a.m.

The answer to that is straightforward. Although it is our intention to have ratified the agreements, that does not necessarily mean that they will have been ratified by the other EU27 countries. That is the important thing. I will come on to why the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would put at risk agreements that the UK is already party to and that UK businesses are already benefiting from.

We must remember that EU free trade agreements that contain areas of shared or member state competence must be ratified by all 28 member states before they come into force. As we know, that process can take considerable time. We drafted the clause 2 power so that signed EU free trade agreements fall within its scope. That will ensure that it can be used to implement agreements to replace those that have been signed, and which may have been provisionally applied but are yet to be ratified by the EU or the partner country.

Many such agreements are benefiting businesses and consumers as we speak. In other words, they have already taken effect. I know that the hon. Gentleman is opposed to CETA, for example, but we believe that it has benefited UK businesses considerably since it was provisionally applied and took effect in September. I know that he wants to throw away those benefits, so I remind him that most of his party sensibly sees the merits that CETA provides this country. Under his amendment, we would be unable to implement a free trade agreement that falls within this category, which would risk a cliff edge in any trading relationships covered by such an agreement.

To take another example, the UK ratified the EU’s Andean FTA with Colombia and Peru in 2014. In 2016, UK trade with those countries had a value of more than £2 billion. However, that FTA is still awaiting ratification by both the European Union and a number of EU countries. If that is still the case by exit day, the amendment would prevent the clause 2 power from being used to implement a transitioned FTA with Colombia and Peru, resulting in a likely reduction in trade flows between the UK and the Andean countries.

Let me turn to a few points that the hon. Gentleman raised elsewhere. He asserted that the agreement has to be signed by both parties. Clause 2(3), which relates to free trade agreements, states that in order for the Government to be able to use the power when implementing an agreement with a partner country, both the EU and that country must have signed a free trade agreement before exit day. In other words, both must have signed the same agreement.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:39 a.m.

It does not say “the same”.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 9:55 a.m.

I think the hon. Gentleman said it was ambiguous, but the Government’s intention is clear. We have all laid it out frequently: to transition the effects of the 40-plus EU FTAs, not to renegotiate new agreements. He mentioned the cases of Norway and Turkey. As I laid out at considerable length at the Select Committee on International Trade last week—I know two of his colleagues are members of the Committee—the situation will depend largely on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, which is a matter for the current negotiations, as Norway, Turkey and Switzerland’s relationships are very much linked to whatever our future relationship with the EU might be.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 9:39 a.m.

Of course, the Minister is entirely right to say that the nature of the agreements that we conclude with those countries would depend on our future relationship as we negotiate our withdrawal from the EU, but the point is that this Bill is supposed to be simply rolling over the existing agreements. The Minister has made a great deal of the fact that we want no change and are simply rolling over what exists into what comes afterwards. That is the trap that he has set for himself, and he must extricate himself.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 9:56 a.m.

I will just repeat what the Secretary of State said on Second Reading: the Bill is designed to be robust to the different cases of where the future UK-EU relationship might lead us following the negotiations.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Japan. In the small number of cases where the EU seeks to establish an FTA, it might be too late to go through conventional EU scrutiny here, and there are also our agreements that will now be sole EU competence. Also, they might not necessarily happen through the current EU scrutiny process. We will consider this in due course, but we are committed to Parliament having its say. Earlier this month we published a response to the trade White Paper, and the Government will consider views as we develop proposals regarding the role of Parliament in future trade agreements.

If we are to avoid trade disruption, we need to make sure that signed EU agreements that are not yet ratified by the EU, including the examples I have given, such as CETA, the Andean agreement and the partner country agreements, fall within the scope of the Bill, otherwise we will jeopardise a considerable part of the current trading relations that benefit this country so much. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, the amendment would not improve the Bill. It would actually threaten a great number of our existing trading arrangements.

It is worth remembering that a delay in ratification by another EU member state has no real relevance to the content of an agreement, or indeed to UK scrutiny of it. It is merely a reflection of that country’s domestic situation. To allow such a state of affairs as that suggested in the amendment, and to cause disruption to UK businesses, would be profoundly unsatisfactory.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 10:03 a.m.

I am absolutely clear that this Bill relates to the transition of our existing trade agreements. How we approach future trade agreements will be a matter for future consideration. I mentioned earlier that we will look carefully at the responses to the consultation. Of course, if the hon. Gentleman has views, we are keen to hear them. Indeed, we will be seeking views from across this House on what Parliament’s views on these matters might be, but that is entirely a matter for the future.

Amendment 10 would clearly create an unacceptable risk that agreements essential to trade could not be effectively provisioned. If the members of the Committee are concerned about the scope of this power, please let me reassure them that, as I referred to earlier, we have already set out in clause 2 restrictions on the scope of the power.

Given these constraints, the existing drafting of the power, and our clear and firm assurances that this power is not intended to be used for the implementation of future trade agreements, it would be strange to include this amendment, which sets out the required procedure for future trade agreements. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw amendment 5.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 10:03 a.m.

I am not prepared to withdraw and I propose that we move to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 10:58 a.m.

We have been clear that many EU trade agreements presently provide those protections and we have been clear that this exercise of transitioning existing EU free trade agreements will not be used for any back-door attempt to do anything to the NHS that would prevent our right to regulate domestically for the NHS. This party has a proud record of defending and protecting the national health service, and that will continue.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 10:59 a.m.

Does the Minister recall that during the drafting of CETA, while Germany put a clear exemption into the agreement’s text that it would not allow any privatisation of its health service in that way, the UK failed to do so? One reason the ancillary document—the interpretative document—was necessary was to make that clear, but that document was not binding in law. As such, the Government do not have a good record on this, do they?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 10:59 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman and I had an extensive debate on this matter in February. We are satisfied that the protections in CETA are adequate for protecting our national health service and our right to regulate in the domestic market.

It has long been an aspect of UK Government policy under successive Governments to make sure that trade agreements work for services. That is actually in the UK national interest—80% of our country’s GDP comes from services and 79% of our employment comes from services—and has been an objective of successive Governments.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 11 a.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 11 a.m.

Of course I will allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene, to clarify where he is with Tony Blair.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

30 Jan 2018, 11:01 a.m.

My relationship with our former Prime Minister is probably not in scope for the Committee. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Labour party and the Opposition in Committee do not in any way want to stop the very valuable exports that our service industries make to the rest of the world. We want to see them flourish, but we want them to do so within a framework that does not prejudice the protections that should properly—as the Minister has acknowledged—be in place for public services and the public sector in this country, and the right to protect our national health service and to ensure that public procurement can be done properly.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

30 Jan 2018, 11:02 a.m.

I think we shall leave it at that. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his clarification of where he stands in relation to Tony Blair.

Protecting the UK’s right to regulate public services is, of course, of the utmost importance. UK public services are protected by specific exceptions and reservations in EU trade agreements where relevant. As we leave the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections are included in all trade agreements that it is party to. On that basis, I ask the Opposition to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 25th January 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 3:01 p.m.

I know that the hon. Lady takes up issues for her constituents—she and I have meetings about particular issues in her constituency. I repeat that we would not normally use these powers, and we would never do so without consultation. I will refer to some of the other reasons, which have been alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford, and by the hon. Member for Brent North, why we will not go down the road of requiring consent. We would not normally use the powers, but it is very important that we do not require consent to use them. That is a very serious commitment, which should offer the hon. Lady reassurance.

Amendment 36 seeks to remove the restriction on devolved Administrations amending direct retained EU law. Some EU law applies directly and uniformly across all EU member states without needing to be implemented in domestic legislation. On the day that we exit the EU, that type of EU law will be converted into what will be called retained direct EU law.

As the Government’s guiding principle is that no new barriers to living and doing business in our own Union should be created on exiting the EU, it is right that there should be only a co-ordinated set of changes made to that type of law, in order to maximise continuity and certainty for businesses and consumers. We are committed to consulting the devolved Administrations on the most appropriate way to legislate in areas of retained direct EU law that have effect in otherwise devolved areas.

Regarding amendment 37, we also consider it right that where measures affect the whole UK, such as quota arrangements or the use of powers in clauses 1 and 2, before we exit the EU, decisions are taken at UK level before the devolved Administration can take the measures.

Let me turn to some of the individual points raised. The hon. Member for Livingston asked whether a proper consultation could not be sought in Northern Ireland. It is important to recognise that, for reasons of arithmetic, there is not a Northern Irish Member on the Committee, but I will try to answer her point. We are working hard, as she will know—I think she will agree—to restore devolved Government in Northern Ireland as soon as possible. We are committed to working to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests are represented in the meantime. The Department for International Trade engages with officials in Northern Ireland on a regular basis.

The hon. Lady also asked whether the GPA allows Governments to nationalise or privatise anything, whether for procurement or any other purposes. The UK Government will be bound to open up procurement markets only to the extent they have committed to do so in the new schedule to the government procurement agreement as lodged with the WTO. That will preserve the present position in relation to procurement in areas such as the NHS.

I think the hon. Lady asserted that procurement is devolved. This is a complicated area. The UK Government accept that some procurement is devolved, and the Scottish Government have made some regulations about procurement. However, the UK Government’s position is that procurement is an activity for devolution purposes rather than a subject matter. In other words, whether a procurement is devolved or reserved depends on the functions of the public body carrying it out. I think the saying is that if the public body answers to part of the Scottish Government, it might be devolved, but if it is a UK body of Her Majesty’s Government that operates in Scotland, it is likely not to be devolved.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun referenced the power that Wallonia has. I am familiar with such arguments: I think the hon. Member for Brent North debated that at some length in relation to CETA in February last year. To be clear, I expect he knows that the UK and Belgium have very different constitutional arrangements. Foreign relations are the responsibility of the UK Government under each of the devolution settlements.

The hon. Member for Brent North made some interesting points. For the first third or so of his speech, I thought I was coming close to being in complete agreement with him—at least in his thrust that the proposal in the amendment to have in effect a veto power for the devolved Administrations would make the whole endeavour unworkable. He is right. He made reference, as I will, to the short, succinct intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford about the potential for a Welsh Government veto over something that was felt to be particularly important in Scotland. That, or vice versa, is a very real example. Our approach is best: not normally to use the powers to amend legislation in devolved areas without consent, and never without consultation with the devolved Administration.

I was surprised by the approach taken by the hon. Member for Brent North. It was my impression that the amendments were drafted by the Scottish and Welsh Governments together. Therefore, much as I welcome him saying that he will not vote for the amendment, it surprised me a little that he seems to be at odds with the Welsh Government viewpoint. Anyway, I am glad that he may be joining us on this occasion.

In terms of the GPA and rolling over the existing schedule, yes, that is the intention, but—I repeat—the terms on which the UK enters the GPA in our own right will be subject to a separate vote in Parliament. The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 applies to the terms of the UK’s new membership of the GPA —in other words, it is possible to bring a vote in Parliament on the terms under which the UK will join the GPA.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 3:07 p.m.

The Minister just assured the Committee that there will be a vote on accession to the GPA. I am surprised that he says he can assure the Committee of that, because the procedure of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 does not ensure that there will be a vote at all. CRAGA procedure is precisely the statutory instantiation of the Ponsonby rule of 1924, which means that all the Government need to do is lay the text of the agreement before Parliament for 21 days. Unless Her Majesty’s official Opposition, or any of the Opposition parties, raise that as an objection in an Opposition day debate, it goes through—that is if they are granted an Opposition day motion within that 21 sitting days, which is by no means guaranteed. You will recall, Mr Davies, that between 27 January and September 2017, the Government did not grant the Opposition a single Opposition day debate. Even if they were to object through an Opposition day, the Minister would simply have to acknowledge it, re-table the text, and it would lie on the Table for another 21 days. Unless we went through the same process, there is no process for the Opposition to amend or vote unless we are given an Opposition day debate.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 3:16 p.m.

I know the hon. Gentleman has a particular fascination with the Ponsonby rule of 1924, but I remind him that that rule was made otiose by his own party’s legislation—the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. I went back and checked. Mr Davies, you and I were in Parliament at that time as Members of the Opposition—

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 3:16 p.m.

In 1924?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 3:16 p.m.

In 2010. The hon. Gentleman supported that Act. That is why I was careful to clarify that it is possible to bring forward a vote on the UK’s terms of entry into the GPA. For all those reasons, I ask the hon. Member for Livingston to withdraw her amendment.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 3:01 p.m.

Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. As was stressed this morning in our latest evidence session, in what I think were the witness’s words, businesses say, “We want clarity.” At every turn, that is what the Government have denied them. We see the reports that businesses, industry and sectoral organisations are producing. We have read of the disconnect between the Administration and the business community. Many individuals have made the same point to me in private meetings, but it was quite remarkable to hear in this public forum just how deeply business feels betrayed as a result of the Government’s determination to do it their way and go it alone.

Government Ministers have promised, in the least convincing way, that the UK’s future trade agreements will remain to be talked about at some unspecified point in the future. I think the Scotch Whisky Association said that the “missing piece of the puzzle” was when that would happen. It was instructive to hear the evidence from the representative of the International Chamber of Commerce UK, who pointed out just how inadequate the Government’s commitments in that regard have been. He noted that the Government have given no indication of whether this mythical debate over our future trade policy will be a random chat, a formal consultation or a second piece of legislation. We do not know what it will be, and we do not know when—or if—it will be.

Given the Government’s record leading up to the publication of this Bill, it is small wonder that no one is prepared to give Ministers the benefit of the doubt. Since the consultation here was so bad, why should people trust that the Minister will do what he has suggested—I would not say promised—he will do? That is why we need to talk about the implementation of all the UK’s international trade agreements now, when we have the Trade Bill in front of us, not in some future world that the Secretary of State might imagine—

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 3:47 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 3:47 p.m.

I will give way to the Minister if he can give a promise or commitment from the Government to this Committee, and a date by which such legislation will be introduced.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 3:48 p.m.

I understand the thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s argument, but does he not agree that if we were to agree to these amendments and new clauses today, we would be effectively pre-empting the ongoing consultation on what Britain will do on future trade agreements? That is the key thing to understand. On future trade agreements, we would wish to consult further; passing these new clauses and amendments today would be cutting that process short.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 3:49 p.m.

Mr Davies, I have long admired this Minister’s chutzpah. The chutzpah of somebody to say, “Although I, as the Government, have completely abrogated my responsibility to get this Bill right, and you the Opposition have decided to fulfil my role for me, to try to put it right and get the stuff in place, if we passed your amendments we would not have consulted on them”! What complete, spurious nonsense. Let us have a grown-up debate, because that is not one; it really is not. It trivialises the work of this Committee and the important work that Government must do in scrutinising our future framework for trade negotiations. Mr Davies, I will calm down and try to get back to the essence of what we are doing here.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 4:26 p.m.

I think that the hon. Gentleman is saying that he is very satisfied with the current system of EU scrutiny in relation to EU trade agreements.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 4:26 p.m.

I am pointing out to the Minister, in response to his earlier remarks, the reason I voted for CRAGA then. I think I am right in saying that while his party voted against CRAGA, which it is now relying upon so heavily—there is an irony there—he did not turn up for the vote. I turned up for the vote and I voted for it, but because it was subject to all the scrutiny procedures that were already in place from the EU. The situation has changed.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 4:28 p.m.

In fact, they would not have to wait. I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman and I know he speaks with real experience in these matters, having been a trade Minister. I ask him to look at what we have proposed: we have tried to introduce the bifurcation at a high level in the legislation. We have put the proposals in at that point. Of course, they would have an impact on all the new free trade agreements. We are trying to ensure that for new free trade agreements, this is the proper process of scrutiny that will come into place. On the corresponding agreements—where the EU already has an agreement—there will be a streamlined procedure, but one that is still subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, particularly where those agreements have been substantially amended.

Let me conclude this section of my remarks by repeating that we have tabled the amendments and new clauses to establish a procedure for new free trade agreements that do not correspond to any prior EU agreement—that is the point I just made to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford. I was struck by how forcefully the representatives of business made the case to the Committee in our final oral evidence session on 23 January that there needs to be substantially greater consultation on the new trade agreements that the Government are negotiating, which correspond to prior EU agreements. Wherever those EU agreements are modified to incorporate new obligations, those obligations must be highlighted and presented to Parliament, to business and to the country as a whole, for proper debate, proper scrutiny and proper accountability. We will precisely return to the issue of scrutiny for these new replacement UK agreements as we go through the rest of the Bill.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 4:31 p.m.

The Government have been clear that we do not seek to renegotiate existing trade agreements. In leaving the EU, we seek to maintain continuity in our existing trade and investment relationships. As such, we seek no change in the effects of our existing agreements as we leave the European Union. Therefore, special review procedures, as proposed in new clause 8, for example, are unnecessary.

The powers in the Bill will be used only to transition the existing trade agreements that the EU has signed up to prior to exit day. The Bill does not relate to the negotiation, signature or implementation of future free trade agreements. We have taken that approach for a specific reason: we want Parliament to play a vital role in the scrutiny of future trade agreements, as it always has done. In the trade White Paper, we made it clear that our future trade policy must be transparent and inclusive, and that Parliament will be engaged throughout the process. We will continue to respect the role of Parliament when agreeing the terms of future trade agreements.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 4:34 p.m.

As I have stressed, consultation on future trade policy is ongoing. It is not dependent solely on the trade White Paper. We are consulting by speaking with partners, businesses, the devolved Administrations and other stakeholders constantly as we seek to bring forward proposals on our future trade policy. However, as I have explained, we consciously decided to make this Bill about our current trading arrangements and ensuring that they can be transitioned properly into UK law.

Therefore, these amendments pre-empt the full consideration of the 7,429 responses received during that consultation and of the views expressed inside and outside the House. It is right that we take the appropriate amount of time to develop a range of proposals that ensures that Parliament, the devolved Administrations, devolved legislatures and a wide range of stakeholders, including business and civil society, are engaged throughout the negotiating process.

The hon. Member for Brent North made a fascinating speech on what the UK’s future trade policy might look like, but that is not what we are deciding today. He said that Government can smuggle new trade agreements through Parliament without a vote. No. The implementation powers in clause 2 are exercisable by negative procedure statutory instruments. These are subject to a vote in either House of Parliament, if the regulations are objected to by parliamentarians. Parliament has the right to vote on the implementation of transitionally adopted trade agreements, if it so desires.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jan 2018, 4:36 p.m.

The Minister must be more straight- forward with the Committee. We have already been over this ground. He knows that the negative procedure does not make provision for anything but the grace and favour of the Government in giving Her Majesty’s Opposition an opportunity to object. There is no necessity at all for a debate or vote on the Floor of the House. He must be straightforward about that.

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 4:36 p.m.

Again, I stress that Parliament has the right to vote on the implementation, but we also must remember that these will be agreements that are substantively the same as the current agreements. The reason I intervened on the hon. Gentleman—when I think he confirmed he was quite content with the existing EU scrutiny procedures—is that of course all of those agreements have been through the existing EU scrutiny procedures. I was not necessarily with him in the Chamber or upstairs each time one of those EU trade agreements went through, I think he was satisfied with those procedures at the time.

Break in Debate

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- Hansard - -

25 Jan 2018, 4:37 p.m.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the evidence of the International Trade Committee, if that is in order. We had a good round about this at the Select Committee yesterday—some of the members of the Select Committee are here or are at least members of the Bill Committee—and we are quite clear that 70-plus partners have been engaged in this process. All 70-plus have agreed in principle; none has raised objections in principle to doing this. There is no reason that they necessarily would want to change the substance. They need continuity in their trading arrangements in the same way that we do.

The hon. Member for Brent North claimed that a wide range of stakeholders provided oral evidence calling for greater scrutiny mechanisms for future approved trade agreements. I think that was a fair comment. There were a number of views on how our future scrutiny arrangements might be, but I think the evidence session showed just how varied and complex the views on this matter are. It is right that we take the time to think through our options carefully. Let us not rush ahead and put in place arrangements that may not be fit for purpose. That is why we will be returning to future trade agreements in the future.

We will return to Parliament with proposals on future free trade agreements, on which we will seek views in due course. Accepting these amendments and new clauses would frustrate our ability to fully consider all of the issues and options in the round. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Brent North to withdraw the amendment.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will try to extract the crumbs of comfort from the Minister’s remarks. He has said that he recognises that there is a role for greater parliamentary scrutiny of our trade arrangements and that these are matters to which we should return in due course. He has also suggested that we should be able to have a proper consultation on the future trading arrangements. Those are things that I take as good will on the part of the Minister.

I propose not to press these amendments, but I make it clear to the Minister that, at a later stage in the passage of this legislation, he should table his own amendments to do what the Bill says it is about and what Her Majesty in the Gracious Speech to Parliament said it was going to be about. If he does that, I will be very happy. I will see him as a man of his word, and will be looking forward to going through what I assume will be a very similar text to the one I have tried to present to the Committee today.

I will not press these amendments today, but I put the Government on notice that it is time for them to act and to come forward with their own proposals. If they do not, these Opposition measures will return at a later stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Craig Whittaker.)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 11th January 2018

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

11 Jan 2018, 9:58 a.m.

Assisting trade capability in the developing world is one of the key parts of our official development assistance strategy, launched by the Department for International Development last year. In Buenos Aires last month the Secretary of State and I announced a big increase in funding for the WTO’s enhanced integrated framework, which does precisely that, making the UK the largest donor to that WTO fund.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jan 2018, 9:58 a.m.

The steel industry has repeatedly complained that the Government are not prepared to impose penalties on exports from countries with significant market distortions. America is clear, having imposed penalties on China under section 232, and the EU is clear, having recently voted to pass new anti-dumping rules, but the Secretary of State has constantly ducked the issue and refused to say what his Department will do after we leave the EU. When will he give the steel industry a straight answer?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 23rd November 2017

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
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23 Nov 2017, 10:01 a.m.

America’s Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross told the CBI this month that the essential precondition of a trade deal with the USA was to move our regulation standards and environmental protections away from the EU and closer to those of the Americans. Last week, Michel Barnier said that the essential precondition of a good trade deal with the EU was to keep our regulation standards and environmental protections close to the European model. The Government say their top priority is securing barrier-free trade with the EU, so does the Secretary of State accept that he can have American cake or European gateau, but he cannot have both?

Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
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23 Nov 2017, 10:02 a.m.

Who writes your jokes?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 12th October 2017

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
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12 Oct 2017, 10:01 a.m.

Thank you, Sir; it is always good to have you keeping me up to pace.

Recent reports suggest that Boeing provided Monarch Airlines with 45 Boeing 737 MAX jets at a cut price and that Boeing used a complex sale and leaseback deal to provide Monarch with more than £100 million in cash against a paper profit. Given the Secretary of State’s earlier commitment to trade defence remedies, why has he left it to me to write to the EU Commissioners to ask them to investigate this as a matter of potential illegal dumping and anti-competitive behaviour?

Greg Hands Portrait The Minister for Trade Policy (Greg Hands)
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I am happy to look at the precise nature of the hon. Gentleman’s allegation, but I have to say that the Government’s response on Monarch has been exemplary. We have devoted an incredible amount of resources to getting tens of thousands of stranded British subjects abroad back to this country. The process was led incredibly well by the Department for Transport, and we should be proud of the Government’s efforts in helping the victims of Monarch.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Greg Hands and Barry Gardiner
Thursday 6th July 2017

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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6 Jul 2017, 9:45 a.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and welcome him back to his place; I have fond memories of working closely with him in previous Departments on trade and other issues.

There are two things to say in response to the hon. Gentleman’s question. He is right that the removal of non-tariff barriers—the grit in the system—is a key aspect of our Department’s work, and he is right to emphasise that this is about not just free trade agreements in the future, but also removing those practical barriers, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had those talks back in December. In terms of supporting SMEs, the GREAT.gov.uk portal is very good; there is good access to Brazilian deals that are coming up, and I urge all SMEs to go to that portal, in order to access that.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
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6 Jul 2017, 9:47 a.m.

Of course, the Minister could have pointed out that a trade agreement can only take place with Mercosur, because Brazil is part of that bloc, and should an EU trade agreement be put in place with Mercosur prior to our leaving the EU, it would become one of the agreements the EU currently has with some 50 countries. How does the Secretary of State propose to carry out his manifesto commitment to replicate all of those existing agreements after Brexit, and specifically, what legislative instruments does he propose to introduce to that end in the trade Bill?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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A lot of these matters will form part of the trade Bill which will be introduced in this Session. What is most important is that, as we seek a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union, we seek to replicate all of those existing EU free trade agreements, to provide certainty and stability for our businesses as we go forward to enable them to access both existing and future markets.