All 5 Lord Haskel contributions to the Trade Bill 2019-21

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Tue 8th Sep 2020
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Tue 29th Sep 2020
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Thu 1st Oct 2020
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Mon 7th Dec 2020
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Wed 6th Jan 2021
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Lord Haskel Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Haskel Portrait Lord Haskel (Lab) [V]
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Like other noble Lords, I am concerned about parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements. As I see it, in parliamentary terms, at present these treaties are subject only to a negative procedure, with no guarantee of debate. The Government are using royal prerogative powers and the Minister is presenting this Bill as a continuity Bill—my Lords, this is clearly inadequate.

At the very least, there should be an affirmative procedure process, together with the statutory debate that goes with it. This should take place when negotiations are opened, so that Parliament can exercise influence then, and again before signature, to provide a last chance for change. These checks and balances are an essential part of our democratic system. As I understand it, unless these arrangements are changed, it is too late for Parliament to influence arrangements with the EU, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, because these have already been launched with a simple statement. Consultation is not a substitute for scrutiny, as my noble friend Lord Stevenson said.

In the other place, the Government opposed this additional scrutiny and said that Parliament gets its say when we deal with implementation, but that is too late. It is too late because trade agreements are not just economic matters: as my noble friend Lord Wood explained, they are strategic and geopolitical. They are an expression of the social and environmental values mentioned by other noble Lords. Therefore, Ministers should lay their negotiating objectives in these trade agreements before Parliament and debate them. There are also practical considerations, which affect the health, safety and security of every one of us in this country.

Of course, we have to maintain our political and economic independence, but we face the same long-term threats and global challenges as many of our trading partners: threats from China and Russia, and instability in the Middle East. Our largest trading partners are our most reliable partners in facing up to these threats.

The Government have already recognised the strategic importance of operating with our trading partners through the Project Defend strategy. The strategy seems to have concluded that we will not generally go it alone, especially when the pandemic has exposed our dependence on imports of critical goods, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, explained. Presumably, our new freedom to use state aid will be directed to increasing our resilience by incentivising UK companies to make some of these critical products. Again, this is a strategy which impacts our trade agreements, requiring careful parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that the groundwork for this aspect of our trade deals has been properly done.

In the other place, the Government did not allow amendments enabling this scrutiny. I hope they will think again in this House, and I look forward to debating the promised amendments in Committee.

Trade Bill

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
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I remind the Committee that, when we reach that stage, I would be very grateful for two statements from my noble friend: the first, about how future trade agreements will be implemented into domestic legislation through bespoke primary legislation; and secondly, that the processes to which the then Government committed themselves in the previous Trade Bill for agreeing future trade agreements will be the basis—we hope, the complete basis—for the present Government’s approach to the approval of future trade agreements.
Lord Haskel Portrait Lord Haskel (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, apart from any rollover deals which we entered into when we were part of the European Union, these amendments deal with the ratification of future trade deals. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, I support these amendments, for many reasons. First, as my noble friend Lord Stevenson explained, they give Parliament on opportunity, a chance, to improve treaties by flagging up ambiguities, loopholes or unintended consequences which may have been missed.

When we were members of the EU, these trade agreements were scrutinised for this purpose, on our behalf, by the European Parliament. It had considerable say in these negotiations and actually voted on the final text. This scrutiny is particularly important because international treaties are binding on future Governments. Indeed, full parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals was a commitment in Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto. Now that we have left the EU, we find that instead of Parliament having a say in these agreements, it is largely an executive power, and ratification becomes a formality.

When we debated the previous Trade Bill, Amendment 12 on Report proposed a similar process for ratification. It was approved by a strong majority in this House. Indeed, the House’s concern is demonstrated by the setting up of our International Agreements Committee to look at progress on trade negotiations—the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, referred to this.

These amendments also bring the management of our trade agreements into the 21st century, as my noble friend explained. This is because trade deals have become much more than simple matters of business. They are strategic; they are geopolitical; they affect our standard of living. This is why ratification has to be so much more than a simple executive process. Amendment 10 acknowledges this by setting a framework for future trade policy. This is so Parliament can ensure that our social and environmental values and standards are maintained. Amendment 10 assumes that these matters were taken into consideration when the EU negotiated a trade agreement, so this arrangement does not apply to rollover trade agreements, which I think is reasonable.

In supporting these amendments, I was influenced by a paper published by the Global Economic Governance Programme. It compared our ratification process with that of other countries in the EU. They involve their Parliaments extensively with the ratification process. Here, the extent of our Parliament’s power is to delay ratification by 21 days, which is the only way it can hold the Government to account. This is clearly inadequate, and these amendments set about putting it right. That is why I support them.

Another reason why I support these very timely amendments is that, in recent weeks, public trust in the Government’s executive powers has declined because of the way they are using their emergency powers to control the Covid-19 epidemic. This decline in trust is likely to be demonstrated in the other place tomorrow. If we are not careful, the same lack of trust will happen with the Government’s power to ratify trade deals with little parliamentary input. Again, this is why these amendments are timely and important, and they have my support.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, this Bill is supposed to be about continuity agreements. I accept that Amendments 10 and 103 are within the Long Title, but I do not understand why whoever drafted the Bill gave it a Long Title which allowed amendments dealing with non-continuity agreements, non-free trade agreements, to come within its scope. However, we are where we are.

I put my name down to speak on this group of amendments mainly because of Amendments 10 and 103, which seem to be another back-door attempt to override the CRaG process, which is based on the much more long-standing process of the Ponsonby rule. It is part of a long-standing tradition that that is how we handle treaties in our Parliament. I accept that we will have a longer debate on that when we get to the group including Amendment 35. We ought to recognise that this is not simply a question of Parliament not being involved. In February 2019, the Government announced their approach to involving Parliament in international treaties, which supplements the formal CRaG processes. The current Administration have confirmed that they broadly stand by that earlier announcement of policy. It would be helpful if my noble friend the Minister could reaffirm that today.

Trade Bill

Lord Haskel Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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I come to my conclusion and reiterate that the sustainability of the NHS is an absolute priority for the Government. That is why we are clear that, in any negotiations on future trade agreements, we could not, would not and will not agree to any proposals on medicines pricing or access that would put NHS finances at risk or reduce clinician and patient choice. These are red lines for us, and I absolutely reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on this point. I therefore ask that the amendments in this group be withdrawn.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab) [V]
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I thank the Minister for his explanation. The Minister faces two main problems with this Bill. The first is the lack of transparency, which many noble Lords have mentioned during the debate. Until there is transparency, the Minister may be in some trouble over the issues of public services, particularly the National Health Service.

The second problem is this: I know that the Minister is relatively new at his job but it is our job to test Bills and decide what is relevant. Nothing is more relevant to most of the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate than the safety and security of the National Health Service, so my conclusion is that the Minister would perhaps be wise to discuss this issue with us between now and the next stage of the Bill. Can we meet and discuss it? Of course he reassures us and of course we know what the policy is but, with the exception of two or three speakers today, I think that we would all feel a lot safer if this measure were in the Bill.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. If she, as an experienced hand, is prepared to lend some of her experience to a new boy, I would be delighted to receive it. I cannot think of a better person to have a meeting with to enable me to do that. I meant absolutely no discourtesy at any point about the scrutiny of this Bill.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I have also received a request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. I call the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, in his remarks, the Minister referred twice to the mandate that the negotiators have for a future trade deal with America and stated that the mandate excludes the NHS. The language that the Government have always used is that they do not have a “mandate” for these negotiations, but “negotiating objectives”. If there is a mandate, as the Minister referred to, will he write to me about what it is? If he would prefer that to be confidential, he can write just to me, but it would also be beneficial and helpful if he wrote to the International Agreements Sub-Committee about it.

Secondly, the Minister must have been briefed before the debate on this group of amendments on both the consequences and the global implications of my noble friend Lady Sheehan’s very proper amendment, which raises these questions. My question to him—on the Government’s policy on utilising the TRIPS flexibilities that exist for medicines patents, which could then be available through our trading relationship with the least developed countries—could not have been more specific. He did not respond to it in his winding-up speech, so what is the Government’s position there? If they have not implemented legislation, as Canada did in March, why not?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that question. I draw no distinction between our negotiating objectives, which were made public before we started the US FTA negotiations, and the mandate. When I used “mandate”, I was referring to our negotiating objectives. I apologise if that caused the noble Lord any confusion. I will write to him on his point about TRIPS.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton.

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Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 15. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 15

Moved by
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Baroness Kidron Portrait Baroness Kidron (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 34 in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, and the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Holmes of Richmond. I declare my interests as set out in the register, particularly as chair of the 5Rights Foundation.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the online safety of UK children and other vulnerable users is not compromised in any UK trade deals, which is of particular relevance to the trade deal between the UK and the US for two reasons. First, the US has recently taken a determined stance in this area and inserted a requirement for recipients of US trade deals—including Mexico, Canada and Japan—to accept aspects of the broad and hugely contested US domestic law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which even the US Attorney-General William Barr describes as enabling

“platforms to absolve themselves completely of responsibility for policing their platforms”

and an IP regime that unduly benefits the mega corporations of Silicon Valley.

Secondly, such broad protection from any liability threatens to put a chill on, if not undermine entirely, existing UK law and threatens the efficacy of the much-anticipated online harms Bill. By contrast, Amendment 34 would make negotiators unable to agree to terms in any trade agreement that did not uphold the UK’s regime of child online protection.

New paragraph (a) captures laws and undertakings in current UK legislation and treaties. This would allow the Government to cite treaties such as the UNCRC, which the UK has ratified but the US has not, and also domestic legislation that has already been passed, for example protections for children from pornography in the Digital Economy Act 2017.

New paragraph (b) specifically refers to the data protections brought into law on 2 September in the form of the age-appropriate design code, an initiative introduced and won in the House of Lords by a similar all-party grouping. It is already having a profound impact on the safety and privacy of children online around the world. New paragraph (b) also ensures that the Data Protection Act 2018 is protected more generally, since the code is built on the broader provisions of the DPA.

New paragraph (c) would allow the Secretary of State to determine that domestic legislation which protects children online can be subject to a carve-out in trade agreements. We cannot directly protect a Bill that is yet to be brought forward but, if this amendment were adopted, the advances promised by the online harms Bill, such as a duty of care tackling the spread of child sexual abuse material, and the introduction of minimum standards, could all be upheld.

Finally, the amendment defines children as persons under 18. This is crucial, since the US domestic consumer law, COPPA, has created a de facto age of adulthood online of 13, an age of maturity that flies in the face of our law, our culture and all known understanding of childhood development.

Turning to the amendment’s relevance to the Bill, I have listened carefully to the Minister, who is at pains to point out that the powers of the Bill are limited to continuity agreements. However, much has been repeatedly said about the lack of parliamentary oversight of the UK’s values as a new trading nation. The Committee can only judge the Government’s priorities on what is in front of it, and I am hopeful that their long-term commitment to making the UK the safest place for a child to be online will be one such priority.

I am not an expert in trade, but I have consulted widely with colleagues and legal experts who are. Their collective confusion would suggest that it remains unclear to what extent agreements between the EU and the US in relation to data flow, data protection and liability services might be considered in scope under language about mutual recognition agreements, which we have yet to hear much about. The Library’s briefing on the Bill points to the fact that:

“The bill does not specify that the new agreement between the UK and a partner country must replicate or be similar to the original EU agreement.”


Were the EU-US agreements to bring these into scope, this leaves a great danger that the safety of UK children will be undermined through the mechanism of a Trade Bill with no oversight or challenge. When the Minister responds, I would appreciate some clarity that this is not the case.

I want to be clear about what it would mean if we sign away the UK’s right to protect children online. The tech sector would be able to continue to regulate itself, meaning more young people having their data harvested and used to recommend dangerous self-harm and suicide content. More games with no breaks or save buttons would trap children in twilight worlds of gaming. More children would be suggested as potential friends to strange adults through risky design features, and more would face the images of their horrific sexual abuse being circulated online forever. These are just some of the harms that the code and the upcoming online harms Bill are designed to end. All would be at risk if the tech companies get their way—as they are furiously lobbying to do—through the “back door” of a Trade Bill. This is not a risk we need to take.

I note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that amendments of this nature hamper the free hand of trade negotiators and, simultaneously, give sight to trade partners of the UK’s red lines. I hope he will forgive me for saying that that is indeed my intention.

I will finish by hijacking a comment from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, during Tuesday’s Committee to point out that it is not only those on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench who want their anxieties to be answered in the Bill. Online harms are an issue that causes anxiety to Members of all parties in both Houses and to vast swathes of the public. There was undoubtedly a majority in the country for releasing the UK from its European trade partners, which forms the context for the Bill, but there is a far greater majority in the country for regulating technology companies. A survey undertaken last year by 5Rights showed that 90% of parents wanted internet companies to be required to follow rules to protect children online, and 67% of those wanted them to be enforced by an independent regulator or the Government.

I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has sought to reassure me on Zoom and by letter that the Government will try to maintain their ability to protect users from emerging online harms in a UK-US trade agreement, and I very much welcome his personal commitment to child online safety. However, given the importance of the issue, I ask the Government to put that reassurance in the Bill. It is not scaremongering. The US, at the behest of the richest and most powerful companies in the world, has already inserted Section 230 into each of its recent trade agreements. As the UK becomes the author of its own priorities in the world, there must be no greater priority than putting beyond doubt that it will not trade away the safety and security of its children.

Therefore I ask the Minister whether he can persuade the Government to adopt the substance of the proposed amendment and, in doing so, categorically take our kids off the table.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, next to speak are the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, but they are not present and are not logged on to Zoom. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, has withdrawn. I call the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

Lord Judd Portrait Lord Judd (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, Amendments 15 and 16 speak for themselves, but I just want to take a moment to say how glad I am that the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, has brought her amendment on safeguarding. The significance and importance of this cannot be overemphasised, and I hope that she will find support from across the House.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. No? I call the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick.

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I support the amendments in this group, but I particularly want to speak to Amendment 34 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. This issue is particularly dear to my heart. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the Minister will say that this does not fall within the remit of the Trade Bill, which simply deals with continuity agreements, but by that very fact this feature to do with online child safety is of vital importance. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, has comprehensively addressed this amendment. She has clearly said that its purpose is to ensure that the online safety of children and other vulnerable users is not compromised as a direct consequence of clauses that appear in free trade agreements.

As we are already aware, the UK does not have a highly developed system of negotiation. As the Bill stands there is no parliamentary oversight, meaning that the terms of the agreements are exclusively in the hands of the negotiators and the Government of the day. This is of particular concern in the area of online protection, for two reasons. First, this is an area on which the US has already taken a determined stance and inserted a requirement for recipients of US trade deals to accept aspects of a broad and hugely contested US domestic law unduly benefiting the mega corporations of Silicon Valley in the USA. Secondly, such a broad lack of liability threatens to undermine or put a chill on the existing UK law and the much-anticipated online harms Bill, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron.

Overall, the amendment would make negotiators unable to agree to any trade agreement that did not protect children online to the same degree as UK domestic legislation and treaty obligations. I suppose, in summary, this amendment would copper-fasten, ensure and safeguard UK domestic attitudes, legislation and guidance, protecting children’s safety online as a necessary requirement of any trade agreement. I submit that it should be in the Bill.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, has withdrawn, so I call again the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh.

Lord Sheikh Portrait Lord Sheikh (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I apologise because I did not unmute myself, but I think that Lady Sheikh has managed to unmute me.

I support Amendment 34 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. While the internet is a space for innovation, expression and communication, it can also be damaging. As our digital world develops and innovates, so do the risks of online harm. Children are increasingly exposed to inappropriate content, grooming, harassment, malicious behaviour, misinformation and breaches of privacy. Two-thirds of vulnerable children and young people, supported by Barnardo’s sexual exploitation service, were groomed online before meeting their abuser in person.

Social media companies have failed to prioritise children’s safety. Last year, the NSPCC found that more than 70% of reported grooming took place on the main social media networks—Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. The global platforms are not taking enough responsibility for content on their sites, or being held accountable. More needs to be done to verify user identities, monitor harmful content and handle reports of abuse effectively. Harmful content and activities have a damaging effect on children’s mental and physical well-being and can lead to exploitation, trafficking, substance abuse and radicalisation. Those impacts are rarely short term; they stay with the children for the rest of their lives.

The UK is committed to being the safest place in the world to be online, and we must do more. We need better safeguards, and I urge the Government to prioritise the online harms Bill, which will be world leading in safety requirements and holding the industry accountable. As we leave the European Union and continue to develop our place in the digital world, we must ensure that our standards and goals are not jeopardised. We recently signed a trade deal with Japan; this historic agreement will advance digital standards through data provisions that maintain and improve digital safety. This year, Japan was ranked first in the child online safety index for low cyber risks. Those risks refer to bullying, misuse of technology, the detrimental effect of gaming and social media, and exposure to violent and sexual content.

In the UK-Japan trade deal, the rights and protection of children online have not been undermined, as Japan shares a similar ambition to ours for legislative standards. But what will happen when we look to sign with other countries that do not have the same level of protection? Unlike Japan, the United States came 22nd out of 30 countries in the child online safety index for cyber risks.

Although this is only one aspect of the index, it shows that children are particularly at risk online in the United States. We cannot expose our children to the same abuse. The new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada has created a legal shield for tech companies, whereby the service providers are not held liable for content on their platforms or the harm it may cause to users. This fails to hold social media companies to account, and is not an effective safeguard for children.

Supporting the amendment would mean that our existing protections could not be traded away, and would ensure that we could fulfil our duty of care to children. If we do not support the amendment, we risk undermining our commitment to create a safer world online for the protection of children. Furthermore, if we do not do this, we could cause a situation in which social media giants are not transparent in how they deal with abuse online, and may be less accountable.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of the digital world in our lives. When we return to normality, we must have better safeguards. We should not just maintain our existing safeguards; we should endeavour to strengthen them. The amendment would mean at least that our existing laws, and therefore the rights of our children, were protected. I hope that it will be accepted.

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Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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My Lords, I will first speak to Amendments 15 and 16, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Stevenson, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. I thank them for their engagement on the Bill and for their wider work over many years on the vital issue of intellectual property. As my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe said, this debate is rather reminiscent of six years ago when I was somewhat steeped in intellectual property in the old BIS department. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, was my opposite number, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe was my successor. This could therefore, perhaps, be described as a continuity debate on a continuity Bill.

These amendments would require the Government to publish reports detailing the impact of a trade agreement on intellectual property and data flows before they could make implementing regulations under Clause 2. I am proud to say the UK’s IP regime is consistently rated as one of the best in the world. That is a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. Now that we have left the EU, in line with our WTO commitments, the Government will continue to maintain our high level of protections of intellectual property. Let me say that at the outset. We recognise that an effective intellectual property system needs to strike a balance between supporting the UK’s world- class technology sectors to research and innovate and reflecting wider public interests. This balance will be reflected in our approach to intellectual property when striking new free trade agreements.

None of the 20 continuity agreements we have signed has weakened IP protections in any way, replicating as they do the provisions in the underlying EU agreements. They do not introduce new or diluted provisions in the fields of IP, data flows or any other areas. As a result, we heard positive endorsements of the Bill during Committee in the other place from service-oriented industries including the Advertising Association, the Institute of Directors and EY.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, invited me to take the questions that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and I say at the outset that I should and do take his questions seriously. One of the points that he raised was: will the Government include a wide range of specified provisions on IP in the trade agreements? Given that this is a continuity Bill, I suggest to him that the answers to his question can be found in the status quo. He mentioned negotiations on IP with the USA and New Zealand, which are not included in the scope of the Bill. However, DIT Ministers hold regular briefings with Peers on the progress of negotiations; I have attended at least two, and I encourage him to join up next time round.

Further to this, the noble Lord asked about the question of IP in our negotiating objectives in the US agreement. If he would like more information on our approach to IP in the negotiations with the USA, he can consult our negotiation objectives. Giving him a bit more detail, I assure him that, first, we will secure copyright provisions that support UK creative industries through an effective and balanced global framework. We will project UK brands while keeping the market open for competition, and we will promote transparent and efficient administration and enforcement of IP rights.

We have already mentioned the parliamentary reports we publish alongside signed agreements explaining our approach to delivering continuity. We believe that publishing additional reports alongside these would slow down the process of concluding agreements and increase the bureaucracy involved. In fact, taken cumulatively, all of the amendments tabled to the Bill by your Lordships would compel the Government to publish no less than 11 new reports alongside every single continuity agreement we sign. I believe that this would not be a good use of time or resources, and I hope the Committee agrees with that.

The UK has long been, and remains, a strong supporter of an open, rules-based international trading system. The WTO’s TRIPS—which was referred to in the debate on the last group—sets out the minimum standards for trade in intellectual property across all WTO member nations. As the UK updates the terms of its WTO membership, we will be making sure that we remain compliant with the TRIPS agreement and, as part of future trade deals, the UK will look to refer to—and improve on—the standards set out in international agreements.

With regard to future FTAs—although they are not included in the scope of this Bill—we support ambitious and liberal provisions that support international cross-border data flows while understanding the importance of ensuring that personal data protections are not put at risk. The UK Government are committed to ensuring that uninterrupted data flows can continue between the UK, the EU and other countries around the world. I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that the free flow of data, including personal data, is crucial to international co-operation in the modern world, but it must be underpinned by high data protection standards. We are equally committed to ensuring high standards of data protection and privacy after the end of the transition period.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, mentioned in his remarks the 2020 Schrems II judgment, which I will say a few words about to help him with some more information. As I said earlier, the UK Government are committed to ensuring high data protection standards and supporting UK organisations and businesses is very important. The UK Government are reviewing the details of the judgment in the case referred to earlier—Schrems II— and considering its impact on data transfers for UK organisations.

As he may know, the UK Government intervened in the case, arguing in support of standard contractual clauses—so-called SCCs—and are pleased that the court has upheld this important mechanism for transferring data internationally. Therefore, the UK may independently take steps to address issues arising from the judgment after the transition period. The Government are working with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that updated guidance on international data transfers will be available as soon as possible. The Government will continue to work with the commissioner’s office and international counterparts to address the impacts of this particular judgment.

The Government have been clear that FTAs do not provide a legal basis for the cross-border transfer of personal data. I make it clear that this will be controlled by our domestic data protection legislation. Moving forward, as we develop our trading relationships with other countries, our approach must be transparent and inclusive. We are working closely with a wide range of stakeholders to develop our priorities around trade and intellectual property, including the devolved Administrations, industry and consumers. Getting the right outcome for UK inventors, creators and consumers will be key. Given that we are seeking to replicate commitments in existing EU trade agreements, I do not believe that producing further reports, in addition to those we already publish, alongside each signed agreement is necessary or proportionate.

I now turn to an important part of this debate. Amendment 34 is intended to prevent the Clause 2 power being used to implement continuity agreements which do not comply with existing domestic and international obligations regarding the important subject of the protection of children and other vulnerable user groups using the internet. We heard passionate speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. I want to be clear, perhaps echoing the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that this Government are, and must be, committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online and for children to be online. We carefully consider any interaction between trade policy and online harms policy in trade agreements. I can confirm that we stand by our online harm commitments, and nothing agreed as part of any trade deal will affect that.

In 2019, as the noble Baroness and others will know, the DCMS published the online harms White Paper, with the initial government response in February this year, setting out the direction of travel. The DCMS will publish a full government response to the White Paper consultation later this year. This will include more detailed proposals on online harms regulation and will be released alongside interim voluntary codes on tackling online terrorist and child sexual exploitation, as well as abuse content and activity. The DCMS will follow the full government response with legislation, which is currently being prepared and will be ready early next year.

It should come as no surprise that our continuity programme is consistent with existing international obligations, as it seeks to replicate existing EU agreements, which are themselves fully compliant with such obligations. By transitioning these agreements, we are reaffirming the UK’s commitment to international obligations on protecting young and vulnerable internet users, which is so important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, asked whether the agreement between the EU and the US on data services should be considered in the scope of the Bill and be able to be rolled over. The scope of the Bill applies to either FTAs or agreements that relate mainly to trade between a partner country and the EU signed before the UK left. She will know that we are in negotiations with the US on an FTA, as I mentioned earlier, and we will bring forward separate legislation on that if required. I hope that that gives her enough reassurance at this stage.

Our continuity agreements will safeguard, not undermine, our domestic protections and international commitments regarding online protection of young and vulnerable internet users. In the light of those reassurances covering all the amendments, I hope that Amendment 15 will be withdrawn and that noble Lords will not press Amendments 16 and 34.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, I have had two requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Stevenson. I now call the noble Lord, Lord Fox.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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I thank the Minister for his response on Schrems II, which was very helpful. I would like just one further detail. Can he confirm that the advice, when it comes, could concern where databases are domiciled? If so, the advice needs to be made available earlier rather than later so that companies are able to comply. Therefore, can he give some indication of the timetable for when business might get some guidelines so that they can work out their new data management policy?

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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Absolutely. That is a very fair question from the noble Lord. As he will expect, I do not have a timeline, so the best thing for me to do is to look at his question and write to him, giving whatever information we have from the department, together with any extra information that might be helpful to him.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I have also had a request from the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, to speak after the Minister, but I now call the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I apologise if I did not make myself very clear when I was speaking earlier, but the Minister did not seem to answer my point. If we are talking about the standards set for any rollover agreements covered by this legislation and—as we hope to persuade the Government—the future free trade agreements that are still to be negotiated with other countries, what standards of child protection can the Government assert they will use if legislation that is going to contain that has not yet been put into primary legislation? For example, he mentioned the commitment in a White Paper, and presumably there will have been legislation, on an issue that deals with child harm. It deals specifically with the question of whether or not the future basis under which this would be done is a duty of care. These are quite important and quite difficult concepts. If they are not there they do not give us a standard. If they are delayed, or in some way changed as they go through the parliamentary process, they may not eventuate into a situation which can be used. My question remains: is this not an issue where it would be helpful to the Government to have something very clear on the face of the Bill that dealt with that particular issue of child harm, which as we have heard, is so important to the people of this country?

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I now call the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron.

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I believe I should respond to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, if I may. The noble Lord makes a very fair point. It is fair to say that this is, just by dint of the coincidence of timing, tied up with all the work we are doing on the online harms White Paper. He will know that more detailed proposals on the regulations will be released alongside the interim voluntary codes. We need to look at this in tandem with what we are doing with free trade agreements. That is the answer I can give to him at the moment. Again, I will write to him with more details on this because it is a very important subject.

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Amendment 16 not moved.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 17. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 17

Moved by

Trade Bill

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

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-I Marshalled list for Report - (2 Dec 2020)
Relevant document: 15th Report from the Constitution Committee
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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My Lords, I will call Members to speak in the order listed in the annexe to today’s list. Interventions during speeches, or “before the noble Lord sits down”, are not permitted and uncalled speakers will not be heard. Other than the mover of an amendment or the Minister, Members may speak only once in each group. Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk. The groupings are binding and it will not be possible to degroup an amendment for separate debate. A Member intending to press an amendment already debated to a Division should have given notice in the debate. Leave should be given to withdraw amendments. When putting the Question, I will collect the voices in the Chamber only. If a Member taking part remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make this clear when speaking on the group.

Clause 2: Implementation of international trade agreements

Amendment 1

Moved by
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Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Amendment 2

Moved by
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Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I also find Amendment 6 rather severe: not only is it asking for accountability to Parliament but it challenges the entire CRaG process. However, I accept that there is strong public feeling on this, which is confronting the Government’s post-Brexit policy directly and the political impetus towards global free trade. Many stakeholders and charities have already commented on several FTAs currently passing through Parliament; they want to be sure that there are safeguards throughout the process of scrutiny, and I understand that. I agree in principle with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the right reverend Prelate. It is an impressive spectrum of opinion.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, refers to CRaG as minimalist, and he may well be right. However, I said earlier in our proceedings on the Bill that I had accepted the Government’s view that they had been flexible and that CRaG was, for the time being, fit for purpose and need not be altered yet—at least not radically. We have made a good start. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, uses the word “consensus”; I admire what I know of the European Parliament’s scrutiny processes, especially its opening up to civil society in all member countries, but I have misgivings about a debate on the objectives of every FGA, because I can guess how much it would slow down our own process.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made an important point about domestic legislation, but all this adds to the CRaG process. It is desirable, and there may be a time for it, but as we are entering a new era of trade agreements, we should wait to see how our existing process will cope with so much demand. Do we have the resources to do this? I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has taken that on board. We have already missed the boat with a row of important new agreements, either past or imminent. I suggest instead that CRaG and the issue of 21 days should be reviewed in a year’s time. So while I am sympathetic to the amendment I may have to abstain on the vote.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. No? Then I call the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness was unable to give us the benefit of her wisdom.

An advantage of being “tail-end Charlie” as the last speaker of 15, is that most of the points have already been made, which helps to speed things up. Let me start with Amendment 12 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley. He made some convincing arguments and, unless the Minister can convince me otherwise, we should support the amendment. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said that CRaG was fit for purpose. I contend that it is not. It was designed in another era, when we were part of the EU and the EU was doing our trade deals. Now we are doing our own trade deals—good luck to the Minister and godspeed to all his civil servants; they will need it in this complicated world. The trade deals that we negotiated 50 years ago are hugely different from those we are negotiating now. Today’s deals are much more complex and involve not only trade but each and every one of us—the environment, biodiversity, the way we live. Therefore, it is important that Parliament is properly involved.

How complex trade deals have become is the compelling argument for Parliament to be given a statutory right to look into these matters. Trade deals are only going to get more complicated, therefore the discrepancy between the current situation, which is out of date, and what is needed in the future, is growing. Effective scrutiny by Parliament on a statutory basis would improve the quality of decision-making. Nothing hones a civil servant’s pen quite like getting Parliament to have a good look at what they are doing.

We have heard that a common objection to the wording of Amendment 6 is that it ties the Government’s negotiating arms and affects their room to negotiate with the other side. I do not think it does. In America, Congress is a very useful weapon that the US negotiators use. They constantly say, “We couldn’t possibly get that through Congress”. Our discussions with the EU are at a very delicate stage, and if there had been a mandate from Parliament that one of the negotiating objectives of this Government was that we would be a sovereign state equal to the EU, we would not be having prevarications with some of the EU states. We would have had a much better chance of getting a deal. Rather than the Prime Minister saying: “We are going to be a sovereign state”, he could quite rightly say: “Parliament has said that we are going to be a sovereign state”. That would have saved a lot of the rather frustrating and silly discussions that are going on at the last minute. It would also consolidate the position of the UK as a serious negotiating partner which will ratify whatever deal is agreed if Parliament has had a proper say.

I am very much aware that the Minister has made concessions on a number of points, but that is not the same as having them in statute. In this day and age, given what has happened in America and how the EU looks at its trade deals and has adapted, it is time that we adapted and took a firmer view, giving Parliament the statutory backing that it needs to look at these matters, but not to the extent of tying the hands of the Minister and the Government in any negotiating deal. Therefore, I support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Trade Bill

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

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-III Third marshalled list for Report - (22 Dec 2020)
Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard (Con)
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My Lords, I hesitate to speak in connection with Northern Ireland matters and have tended to leave these matters to those with more experience of the Province. Like many noble Lords, I regret that the Northern Ireland protocol introduces uncertainties into the status of the Province as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

Amendment 17 is fair enough, except that it is unnecessary in a trade Bill. It is not necessary to complicate the Bill in this way because it is incumbent on the Government to comply with the requirements of the protocol. This includes, as noble Lords are aware, an affirmation of the place of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom customs territory. Furthermore, the Government would not be able to enact any FTA not consistent with our international obligations. I believe that there is a strong case for saying that entering into the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol breached Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. As the noble Lord, Lord of Kerr of Kinlochard, knows well, because he drafted it, the treaty clearly states that the terms of withdrawal of a member state shall be agreed against the background of that state’s future relationship with the European Union. The EU, in my view, wrongly decided to cajole us into negotiating and agreeing the terms of withdrawal separately, and ahead of, agreeing what our future relationship should be. I trust that the Joint Committee will continue to make progress in mitigating the damage the protocol may do to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

Amendment 18 covers only north-south trade. It does not mention east-west trade. Amendment 26 covers east-west trade, but not in precisely the same terms. I believe that neither amendment is relevant or necessary in this Bill, although it is most important that facilitations should be agreed which minimise damage to both north-south and east-west trade.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon. He is not there, so we will move on to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I rise to express my concern at these amendments. They have been presented at length and with much eloquence by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and others. However, they ought not to be for this Bill.

This is not a Bill on our future relationship with the EU or the Northern Ireland protocol. We put all that to bed last month; there is another debate on Friday and a great deal of work continues not least in the EU committee on which I have the honour to serve and in the Joint Committee. However, except on procurement, the Trade Remedies Authority and data, this Bill is concerned with existing agreements between the EU and third countries. I take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister and Secretary of State Truss on the 63 agreements concluded with third countries in the last year, a record that will undoubtedly stand. The idea of attaching new conditions to such continuity agreements on other policy areas such as the Good Friday agreement, however strongly felt by those involved, is inappropriate. I will vote against the amendment for that reason, as I hope will others across the House.

The EU deal is behind us, thanks to the Prime Minister, my noble friend Lord Frost and the team, and the time has come to get this Trade Bill, which started as long ago as 2017, on to the statute book. I will not extend proceedings by speaking on other amendments which suffer from the same problem and which will also, no doubt, be presented with an equally eloquent case. We do no good in this House by introducing these kinds of conditions into inappropriate or irrelevant Bills. To my mind, they should be rejected.

Separately, as someone who loves and has historically been involved in investment in Northern Ireland, and in the interests of reducing uncertainty, to which my noble friend Lord Cormack referred, I look forward to the Minister’s comments on the teething problems in supermarkets mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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I call again the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon. No? I call the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a somewhat unexpected pleasure to end up following the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, who always brings so much practical business experience to debates, not least on Northern Ireland, given her experience with Tesco.

This has been an interesting short debate, with many powerful speeches. As the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and others have said, these amendments were tabled before a trade deal was reached with the EU and an outcome had been found for many of the remaining unresolved issues on the Northern Ireland protocol. Although Amendments 17 and 18, to which I have added my name, have clearly been passed by events, the anxieties surrounding the Government’s ongoing commitment to the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast agreement remain, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, spelled out so powerfully. It is unfortunate that, as a result of the timings of this Bill, this House was unable to express its view through a vote on Amendments 17 and 18 before the ratification of the UK-EU trade deal.

These cross-party amendments stem from a lack of trust in this Government’s ability to stick to their word. The handling of the Brexit negotiations has done little to increase that confidence. I therefore hope that the Minister can reconfirm to the House in his concluding remarks, for the record, the Government’s total commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement now that the trade deal has been agreed.

Amendment 26 deals with unfettered market access between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom’s internal market and in many ways reiterates the Government’s stated policy. We are now in day six of the post-Brexit world and dealing with the realities rather than debating ideologically based theories. We are now beginning to see the realities of barriers to trade and of what the BBC has described as the “internal UK border”. We are also witnessing the consequences of doing a deal so much at the last minute that proper preparation for the business community in Northern Ireland was not really an option.

Before Christmas, as the Minister will know, Northern Ireland trade groups warned that, in spite of the £200 million trader support service, businesses would not be ready to deal with the new border processes, computer systems and bureaucracy in time for 1 January. We are already seeing significant disruption to deliveries in Northern Ireland from many large retailers, such as Amazon, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and others. There is a genuine and understandable concern that this is not just a result of teething problems but could mark the beginning of a long-term trend where retailers based in Great Britain cut their services to Northern Ireland because of significant additional red tape and costs.

The introduction of the three-month grace period, while welcome, begs the question of what preparations the Government are making now to ensure that similar problems do not occur after 1 April this year. I would be grateful if the Minister could say a little about what preparations are taking place to prepare for the end of the grace period and what mechanisms the Government are putting in place to minimise barriers to trade. Will he commit to ensuring genuine consultation with Northern Ireland businesses, as well as with businesses based in Great Britain, that are directly affected? Will he also commit to listen, make changes and reduce barriers to trade, where such changes are still possible within the constraints of the EU trade deal?

I end by referring to the very powerful speech of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, quoting my noble friend Lord Fox, saying that trade is ultimately about people. Passing Amendment 26 this afternoon would go some way to removing some of the deep uncertainties currently facing people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response, made in his usual sincere and emollient way. I had not understood just how devastating the impact of my amendment would be. I think there might have been a tiny bit of scaremongering in that. He also said so far, so good—but we all know that it is early days and we have a long way to go to get the sort of trade deals that we really want. We need the protections that we are asking for. We have had this debate a lot and the Minister knows full well how the majority of the House feels.

I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I particularly enjoy the interventions of the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, whom I very much enjoy clashing with. I should like to say to her that it is absolutely true—I do not trust this Government. I am in awe of her unswerving loyalty to them, especially in view of the fact that in the other place our Prime Minister stands up, makes all sorts of promises and then reneges on them. How she maintains her loyalty is absolutely astonishing.

However, we have had this debate many times. I do feel that the Government just do not understand the depth of feeling on this issue, not just in the House but among the general public, farmers and all sorts of producers. Ignoring this issue is a terrible mistake.

Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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Is the noble Baroness withdrawing her amendment?

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Lord Haskel Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Haskel) (Lab)
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We now come to Amendment 23. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once, and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Amendment 23

Moved by