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Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2018

Never let it be said that my hon. Friend does not have his finger on the pulse of his constituents. I am sure they talk of little other than the OECD in the Stockbrokers Arms in Harpenden. This country is a founding member of the OECD, and I am pleased to confirm our strong links with it, which will continue to go from strength to strength after Brexit. I visited the OECD in Paris earlier in the month, when I reiterated our firm support for the visionary future programme.

I am glad the Minister does not underestimate the sophistication and cerebral quality of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents—that is very important.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I shall take this back to the Stockbrokers Arms in Harpenden this evening. Will the Minister expand further on what the Government have been doing within the OECD to build up bilateral relationships within that multilateral organisation, to prove that this country is still at the forefront of international institutions?

I should point out that I was in no way saying anything untoward about Harpenden, which is indeed the most middle-class, and probably Tory-voting, town in the whole UK. [Interruption.] Dear, oh dear. As I am sure Opposition Front Benchers will be well aware, the OECD has a crucial role to play in global regulation, enabling trade and investment and driving forward a number of important G20 initiatives. In the coming months, we expect to have a renewed commitment from the OECD and its members to continue to open global markets, particularly through the trade in services, and to explore new issues, including digital trade.

The Minister will note that Hove is also middle class—it used to vote Tory, too.

In its last economic survey, the OECD said:

“In case Brexit gets reversed by political decision…the positive impact on growth would be significant.”

Does not that show that the Government’s current Brexit policy is not driving us closer to the OECD but driving us apart?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that way, but I am pleased that the OECD is an important issue in Hove, too. When I saw the secretary-general, he assured me that UK-OECD co-operation is strong and vibrant. Naturally, we talked about Brexit-related issues and the feeling was that we had an important ongoing role to play post Brexit. Above all, what struck me was just how valued the United Kingdom remains in institutions such as the OECD. We will continue to do important work on anti-corruption—for example, in south-east Asia, for which I have ministerial responsibility, we will continue to strengthen the anti-corruption initiatives.

Will the Government assure me that, as we evolve our relationship with the OECD, it will not be to the detriment of our supporting the British overseas territories, particularly in relation to development?

Very much so. I have been struck by the initiatives within the OECD, which is a 35-member strong organisation, with another half dozen countries wishing to join it. There is a recognition that global trade requires a sense of global protocols, and I think that that would apply to the overseas territories just as much as it does to the OECD’s existing members.