House of Commons
Tuesday 26 June 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
Nuclear Safeguards Act 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
Oral Answers to Questions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Secretary of State was asked—
United States: Human Rights and Diplomatic Relations
The friendship between the United Kingdom and the United States is exceptionally close. I speak to Secretary Pompeo regularly. Of course, that does not mean that when we differ from our friends and partners in the United States, we are afraid to speak out, as the Prime Minister did in the matter of the separation of young children from their parents.
I must say that the Foreign Secretary is looking rather sprightly this morning after his overnight flight. I hope that the jet lag was not too severe.
When the Prime Minister was asked about Donald Trump's policy of ripping toddlers from their mothers and holding them in cages, she would merely say that it was “wrong” and
“not something that we agree with.”—[Official Report, 20 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 325.]
May I ask the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the British people, if he can do better than that, and describe the genuine outrage that we as a country felt about this obscene policy?
I think that when the Prime Minister spoke, she spoke for me and for everyone else in the House, and, indeed, for the nation—and the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that no sooner had she spoken than the President signed an executive order repealing the policy.
United Nations human rights experts say that Trump’s policy of detaining children “may amount to torture”. They say:
“Detention of children is punitive, severely hampers their development, and in some cases may amount to torture.”
In the light of that, does the Foreign Secretary believe that President Trump’s visit to the UK should go ahead?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the President has now repealed the policy, and I think it is still common ground on both sides of the House that it is important to welcome the Head of State and Government of our most important ally.
The Foreign Secretary should cancel this visit. We know that, as a self-confessed admirer of Donald Trump, he will not do so, but will he finally condemn the process of taking children away from their parents and putting them in cages? The language that we have heard so far does not condemn that action.
The Prime Minister condemned it, and she speaks for the Government and, indeed, for me. No sooner had she spoken than the President of the United States repealed the policy—thus demonstrating, I venture to suggest to the hon. Gentleman, the considerable and growing influence of the United Kingdom.
I could forgive the Foreign Secretary for feeling a wee bit jaded this morning, but these children are still being kept in cages. This is a major issue. How can he sit there and agree that this visit should still go ahead next week?
The President of the United States is the Head of State of our most important and one of our oldest allies, and it is absolutely vital. I think it is common ground among many people in this country that we should extend the hand of friendship to the office of the President of the United States of America.
Is it not time for the Government to question seriously whether the current President of the United States is a fit and proper person to be our greatest ally? This is someone who can only be described as a serial child abuser. Putting children into concentration camps is not acceptable. The President has not yet taken the children out of those camps: he is holding them hostage to force their parents to give up their claims to asylum, and he is also trying to abolish due process by having no courts and no judges to decide on them. How can this person be fit for a state visit?
Too long. Hopelessly long.
With great respect, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answers that I have already given. The President of the United States has repealed the policy in question, and he remains the Head of State of our most important economic, military and security ally.
The President of the United States has called out the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council for what they are: a bunch of corrupt, nasty hypocrites. He has withdrawn from that council. Why do we not save $4 million a year by doing just the same?
Because we believe in human rights, and we believe that global Britain should stick up for human rights. Yes, I think the United States has a point when it disputes the validity of article 7—the perpetual reference to article 7—in the Human Rights Council’s proceedings. I can, however, tell my hon. Friend that only this week the United Kingdom secured a record number of positive votes for our motion on the vital importance of 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that sometimes being a friend of the United States means being a candid friend, but is it not the case that, when it comes to NATO, the OSCE and sharing intelligence information, the United States keeps Britain safe?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for a characteristically perceptive point. Yes, not only has the United States kept the UK safe, but in many ways it has kept the whole of our continent safe since the end of the second world war. That is a giant political fact that this House should recognise.
President Trump states that EU tariffs are disproportionately higher against American goods than American tariffs on EU products. What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of those allegations?
The reality is that the US has more tariffs against EU products, but the EU’s tariffs are often significantly higher, particularly when it comes to motor vehicles. As the House will know, there is an EU tariff of 10% against US vehicles and a US tariff of 2.5% against EU vehicles.
The depth of our diplomatic relationship is shown by what we think not just about any current US President, but about its Congress, people and businesses. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that these links will serve us very well post-Brexit—not just in a trade sense, but in a security one?
My hon. Friend is completely right. It is vital for the House to remember that, every day in America, 1 million people go to work in UK-owned firms, and every day in this country, 1 million people go to work in American-owned firms. There is no other commercial relationship like it. America attracts about a fifth of our exports already, and that proportion is growing.
Since the Government have chosen to appease rather than to confront the Trump Administration, what success has the Foreign Secretary had in persuading President Trump and his Administration to adopt the open, rules-based trading system on which the future of our country depends and that he is trying to destroy?
Obviously, we dispute the President’s tariffs, and we have made that point very bluntly. On the other hand, there is clearly a problem with the dumping of Chinese steel, and we need to work together on that. That is the point we have been making to the President at the G7, and we will continue to make it when he comes on his visit on 13 July.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that President Trump’s commitment to the defence of Europe is evidenced by the fact that, since he came to office, he has increased the funding for US forces present in Europe by 40%? If it were not for the Americans, who else would be picking up the bill for the defence of Europe?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, because it is absolutely true that the United States remains by far the biggest payer into NATO. I detect a sentiment in the House that we are constantly at variance with the Administration of Donald Trump, but I am afraid that simply is not the case. We happen to agree with the US Administration that it was right to bomb the chemical weapons facilities of the Assad regime, which the Obama Administration did not do. We agree that it is right to reach out to North Korea and try to stop that regime acquiring nuclear weapons. By the way, we agree that it is right that other European nations should pay more for their defence, and we encourage the President in his views.
The Foreign Secretary said that he is “increasingly admiring” of President Trump. Is that increasingly admiring of his policy of tariffs, or increasingly admiring of separating children from their parents?
As the hon. Gentleman may have observed, my point was about the President’s willingness, in defiance of the experts, to reach out to the leadership of North Korea and attempt to do a deal. If you talk at least to the South Koreans, Mr Speaker, you will find that they are very impressed with the way he has changed the atmospherics and given even the North Korean regime space to build down its nuclear arsenal. I think he deserves credit for that.
The Foreign Secretary is trying to give us some context for his comments. He also thinks that the President would do a better job of negotiating Brexit than the Prime Minister. If the Foreign Secretary did not like President Trump’s policies and, say, described them as “crazy” and would not vote for them, does the Foreign Secretary think President Trump would say to him, “You’re fired”?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting point. Thankfully, President Trump’s writ does not run in this country. We run our own affairs, we make our points to the President of the United States, and we do so with vigour where we disagree. The Prime Minister and I disagree with what he has been doing over the separation of kids from their parents. It is right for the UK to speak out over that and we will.
May I first sympathise with the Foreign Secretary that, due to his emergency duties abroad, he was unable to join last night’s fight against Heathrow expansion? Four years ago, the Foreign Secretary was asked what was the biggest lesson he had learned—[Interruption.] Four years ago, he was asked what was the biggest lesson he had learned from his supposed hero Winston Churchill. His answer was:
“Never give in, never give in, never give in”.
For some reason, Churchill did not add, “Unless you can catch a plane to Kabul.” The Foreign Secretary clearly has a new hero, and we know who he is—the clue is in the hair. He said on 6 June that he is “increasingly admiring” of Donald Trump. He has begun to tell us some of the reasons why, but could he help those of us who are yet to be convinced by telling us three things about the current President that he increasingly admires?
I hesitate to say it, but I have anticipated the right hon. Lady’s question. I have pointed out, No.1, that it was admirable that Donald Trump’s Administration responded after the chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime supported by the Russians. It is a good thing that the United States is trying, and trying very hard, to solve the problem of a nuclear-armed North Korea. I admire at least the President’s efforts in that respect. It is also a good thing that the President is encouraging our European friends and partners to spend more on their own defence. We will certainly assist in that effort.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his attempt to answer that question, but even he surely knows in the depths of his soul that when we have a President such as Donald Trump, who bans Muslims and supports Nazis, who stokes conflict and fuels climate change, who abuses women and cages children, it is not a record to be admired, but a record to be abhorred. I simply ask the Foreign Secretary not just why he joked that a man like that should be in charge of our Brexit negotiations, but why he seriously thinks that he should have the honour in two weeks’ time of visiting Chequers, Blenheim Palace and Windsor Castle, and of shaking hands with Her Majesty the Queen.
I have given several examples already of the ways in which our views coincide with those of the current American Administration. I have also said that, where our views differ, we are not afraid to say it. The fundamental point, on which the right hon. Lady and I are in complete agreement, is that it is right that the United Kingdom should welcome to this country the Head of State of our most important and most trusted ally. She is on record as saying that in the past. If she now dissents from that view, it would be surprising, and I would be interested to hear it from her own lips.
I would like to answer but unfortunately I do not have any more time.
Order. I think the Foreign Secretary knows that the right hon. Lady has had her two questions, and therefore that it would not be legitimate to put a third on this occasion. There may be other occasions. We come now to Question 2 and we need to speed up.
Freedom of Worship (Commonwealth)
The Foreign Secretary chaired regular meetings with Cabinet colleagues on the April Commonwealth meetings objectives. The Commonwealth leaders’ communiqué emphasised that full social, economic and political participation for all irrespective of religion is essential for democracy and sustainable development.
Will the Minister tell the House what further practical steps are being taken to ensure the protection of human rights in the Commonwealth, including freedom of religion or belief? That is at the heart of UK foreign policy. Does she share the concerns of Open Doors that the persecution of religious minorities must remain high on the international agenda?
Yes, I can confirm that. Further to the very widely attended Westminster Hall debate last month, I can assure the hon. Lady that at all parts of our diplomatic network we raise these issues at the highest level.
Religious freedom in the Commonwealth is important, but Christian communities throughout the wider world suffer from persecution. Can the Minister give an absolute assurance that the Government will do everything possible to ensure that Christians and other religious groups have freedom of worship?
I can assure my hon. Friend that freedom of religion and belief is one of the topics we regularly raise at the highest level throughout our diplomatic network.
Will the Minister ensure that she talks, via the Foreign Secretary, to President Buhari of Nigeria? With the dreadful goings on in that country and the increasing pressure on the Christian community in the north, it is about time that the President stood up and did something to protect it.
Specifically on the situation in Nigeria, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we regularly raise these issues at the highest level with our friends in Nigeria. We are aware that these conflicts are often driven by conflict over land, grazing rights and water. They should not necessarily always be characterised by religious difference.
Sadly, around the world today we are seeing a rise in the level of persecution of Christians, particularly across the middle east. Will the Minister confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains committed to protecting and promoting religious freedom, particularly of Christians who are persecuted around the world?
I can certainly confirm that, but it is wider than that. We always seek to help in specific situations relating to all freedom of religion and belief, but we also raise the issue more widely in international forums such as the United Nations.
Bearing in mind that the Commonwealth charter lists tolerance, respect and understanding as a guiding principle, will the Minister outline what diplomatic pressure her Department will use to defend against persecution those who choose Christ in India, Nigeria and Malaysia?
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s assiduous pursuit of this agenda. He mentions three specific countries. I can assure him that we regularly raise issues of freedom of religion and belief not just in those countries but more widely, and not only in Commonwealth countries but across the wider network.
Kurdistan and Iraq
Through ministerial and other engagements, we are urging the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government to resolve differences on all immediate issues. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has pressed this message with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi. The national elections in May were a pivotal moment. With Daesh defeated territorially in Iraq, the next challenge is winning the peace.
With the all-party group on Kurdistan, I recently visited Sulaimani University and Kurdistan University. Their students love Britain and want to study in Britain, yet are being held back by visa bureaucracy. Given that Kurdistan is in the frontline against ISIL and is a beacon of stability, can my right hon. Friend do more to unwind the bureaucracy so that more Kurdistan students can study in our country?
The Government’s position is to say repeatedly that we want the brightest and best students to be able to come to the United Kingdom. Our policy in Irbil is to encourage exactly the same. I will look at the question my right hon. Friend raises, because we want to ensure that students in the Kurdish region, who I have also met, are able to come to the UK.
As Iraq attempts to move forward, what discussions has the Minister had with his Iraqi counterparts about respecting international human rights standards, especially with regards to the rights of women in Iraq?
It is a constant part of the conversation we have in Iraq and in other places to make sure that as the country moves forward, particularly after a relatively successful election process, all sections of the community are included in future. When we meet Iraqi parliamentarians, as well as Ministers, we stress that a country is not complete unless women are playing a foremost part both in ministerial and civic society life.
In what way is the demand for full freedom and self-determination among the Iraqi people, particularly the people of Kurdistan, illegitimate?
Questions of the constitutional structure of Iraq are not for the United Kingdom. There is regular dialogue between different sections of the community in Iraq about the proper constitutional processes and structures that will help all parts of the community to develop effectively and strongly. It is essential that the new Government recognise the needs of all sections of Iraqi society.
More dialogue is vital and must be supported by the international community. What assessment has the Minister made of the influence of Russia in the negotiations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government, given the significant investment by the Russian firm Rosneft in Kurdistan’s regional oil pipeline?
It is true to say that, in the formation of the new Iraqi Government, there are many interests from countries in the region. What is essential is that the new Iraqi Government demonstrate their independence and determination to run Iraq without external interference, and stand up for the needs of all their communities to make sure that the disaster that befell Iraq in the past, when other communities were not properly represented, does not happen again.
Nord Stream 2
We recognise that Nord Stream 2 is a controversial proposal, as it would be a gas pipeline that would bypass Ukraine and give Russia greater dominance over the European energy market. The UK is not significantly affected, but we are none the less in regular contact with Germany and Ukraine to discuss and assess the situation.
I do not like saying this, because he is a good Minister, but for him to say to that the UK is not affected displays a shocking level of languid complacency. Of course the UK will be affected if this goes ahead; it will hand to the Kremlin unimaginable economic and political leverage. Why will he not show some muscle, see that this is a big problem, not just for the UK but for the entirety of the future of Europe, and start rallying together with our allies to stop this project?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his appreciation of my skills as a former oil trader. Nord Stream is indeed a pipeline that takes gas from Russia to Germany through international waters, until Denmark, and then it makes landfall in northern Germany. It is primarily a matter for those countries but, as he says, it is of extreme strategic importance to Ukraine, which I fully recognise. That is why we have had meetings with the chief executive of NAFTA. It is also significant to note that, on 10 April, Chancellor Merkel stated that Nord Stream 2, as a project,
“is not possible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine”.
I welcome the Minister’s statement. He is more than aware from his many trips around Europe, and indeed his expert understanding of the energy business and the United States, of the potential impact on not only eastern Europe, but our forward defences because of that. Does he agree that working together with allies around the Baltic, where this pipeline seems to be going to flow, would be very much in our national interest and that the UK very definitely has an interest in making sure that Russia does not complete this project?
I reiterate that, in terms of our actual energy supplies, Russia accounts for only about 1% of UK gas demand, so it is very small and most of it comes from Qatar and elsewhere. However, this pipeline is potentially of strategic importance for the influence of Russia, as my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee rightly says, so of course we are in discussion with Germany and other interested parties about the significance of the proposed pipeline.
Israel and Palestine
We support a negotiated two-state solution. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu on 16 May and reiterated the need for progress. We remain concerned by proposals to demolish Khan al-Ahmar and by new Israeli settlement plans. The Foreign Secretary urged Israel to reconsider when he met Prime Minister Netanyahu on 6 June. I visited Khan al-Ahmar in May and afterwards raised our concerns with my Israeli counterparts and with the Israeli ambassador to the UK.
In his discussions with his Israeli counterpart, has the Minister made it clear that the forcible transfer of communities under occupation in area C, such as Khan al-Ahmar, would constitute a breach of international humanitarian law and, furthermore, effectively end the prospect of a viable Palestinian state?
When I made a statement about that, I drew attention to the point the hon. Gentleman mentioned in the first part of his question about how it might possibly be construed. In relation to the second part, if there is further development in that area, it does indeed call into question the viability of a two-state solution.
Does the Minister accept that the forcible transfer of Khan al-Ahmar would effectively bisect the west bank and make the price of peace that much higher? Does he also accept that the refusal of the British Government to recognise a state of Palestine makes it harder for the human rights of the Palestinians to be heard?
I am not sure about the second part because we do raise issues of human rights, particularly in relation to settlements and the like. On the first part, yes, the concern about the location of Khan al-Ahmar—its close proximity to E1 and the possibility of development there being a bar to contiguity—is indeed a concern for the whole of the international community. It is still possible for any demolition not to go ahead.
There is clearly a systemic issue at the heart of this. Residents of Khan al-Ahmar are being forcibly removed and the village demolished. As the court judgment says, the homes have been built without consent, but there is no means of getting consent because permissions are systemically denied to Palestinians. It is a Catch-22 situation that leaves families in a perpetual state of homelessness. How can such a policy be deemed fair or reasonable, and what influence can my right hon. Friend bring to bear to resolve it?
The concerns that my hon. Friend raises have been at the heart of the discussions on this. Israel has a judicial system. It is true that concerns about the possible demolition of Khan al-Ahmar have been raised in the Israeli courts for a lengthy period, and it has not gone ahead, as others demolitions have not gone ahead. We continue to appeal to the Israeli authorities that, despite their judicial system, the Government can make a decision in relation to Khan al-Ahmar, and the problem in relation to finding building permits in area C is well known.
So far this year, the Israeli authorities have demolished 27 donor-funded structures in east Jerusalem and on the west bank. Can the Minister comment on whether any of these structures were funded by the UK?
I am not aware of any. The EU has made some claims for compensation in relation to structures, but not the UK. Again, the hon. Lady emphasises the problem in relation to settlements and structures. These are difficult issues in relation to the context of Israel and the occupied territories and we believe this could be dealt with in a different way.
What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the recent attacks by Hamas from Gaza into Israel?
As always, we condemn any terrorist attack. Hamas’s policy on Israel is well known. We have no contact with Hamas and, until it moves on the Quartet principles, it is unlikely to play a serious part in the future of Gaza.
Regarding the prospects for peace, stability and good relations in the region generally, what discussions have there been with the American Administration about the forthcoming peace plan for the area, and what does the Minister make of those who would dismiss the plan even before it has got off the ground?
No one should dismiss any possibility for the peace plan. This is a first-term President who has expressed his determination through his envoys to bring something forward. There is concern that nothing has come forward yet, but it is a question of timing, and various parts of the plan have been spoken about with different entities. It is important, if it comes forward, that it be given every chance of success. The region and the world cannot wait forever for a resolution to this issue, and we would wish the prospects for a settlement well when the plan comes forward.
If any colleague can produce a single-sentence question, it will maximise participation.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the landmark visit today by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, the first member of the royal family to officially visit Israel? The visit underlines the deep bond of friendship between the two countries.
Yes indeed. The Government are delighted at the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge. It is an important opportunity for His Royal Highness to promote the strong relationships between the British, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Does the Minister consider that Hamas organising a march of return to areas that have been part of Israel since 1948 is likely to move us any closer to a negotiated two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians?
The answer is probably not. Everyone knows that the right of return will be dealt with in the ultimate negotiations in relation to an agreement. There are legitimate reasons to protest in Gaza, and there is also illegitimate exploitation of those reasons.
It has been widely reported that the Foreign Secretary intends to convene an imminent summit with Jared Kushner and other interested parties to lay out the red lines that the Government will apply when evaluating the Trump Administration’s Israel-Palestine peace plan. Will the Minister of State tell the House in clear terms today what those red lines are?
No, I won’t. There is plenty to do in relation to this without me setting out any red lines that may or may not be extant.
Global Britain is about being open, outward-looking and engaged with the world so as to maximise our influence, and I give the House the clearest recent example of that: the 28 countries who joined us in sympathetically expelling 153 Russian spies.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is the perfect opportunity for us to fundamentally rethink our foreign policy post Brexit, and that more work could be done on the idea of global Britain to ensure that we have a foreign policy fit for the 21st century?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have responded to the challenges that the world presents us with today by increasing our diplomatic staff by another 250 diplomats, in addition to the 100 that we added to our European strength, and we are opening 10 new sovereign posts in the Caribbean and the Pacific, with more to come in Africa.
I hope that global Britain is also about being extremely robust where there are strategic issues in Europe that we have to address, such as Nord Stream 2. Will the Foreign Secretary make it absolutely clear that Russia has systematically been bullying smaller countries in Europe for years through its energy policy and we will assist the Danes and the Germans if they want to make sure this does not go ahead?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Germans import a great deal of their gas from Russia and they are conflicted in that matter, but we continue to raise the concerns that he mentions with our German friends and of course with all the other states on the periphery of the EU that are threatened, as he says, by Russian gas politics.
Order. Just a hint: global Britain can potentially have links with Australia and New Zealand if that is of interest to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), who has a question that might otherwise not be reached.
I have just been warned by the Minister for Asia and the Pacific that the Socceroos are playing Peru tonight. I have just been to Peru and I would not want to forfeit any friendship I may have acquired on that mission. We wish both sides well in that encounter. Not just the FCO, but the Department for International Trade are waiting, straining in the slips—unlike the Labour party—to do the free trade deals that my hon. Friend rightly refers to.
Given that yesterday the Foreign Secretary found himself in Afghanistan, may I ask what lessons he has learnt from Britain’s most recent intervention in Afghanistan and how he intends to employ those lessons in future?
May I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question because, as the House may know, the National Security Council is about to consider a substantial uplift in our engagement in Afghanistan? It is a timely moment to assess the worthwhile aspects of that offer. I believe the UK has contributed massively to modern Afghanistan. Life expectancy for males is up 10 years since the UK first went there as part of the NATO operation; female education—girls attending school—has gone from 3% to 47%; huge tracts of the country are now electrified that were not. We have much to be proud of in our engagement with Afghanistan.
Following the re-election of President Erdoğan and the AKP party on Sunday, we look forward to continuing our close co-operation with Turkey. Turkey continues to face serious terrorist threats from the PKK and Daesh, and from the Syria conflict. We are a close partner of Turkey and we co-operate strongly on counter-terrorism in particular.
In the light of President Erdoğan’s election at the weekend, what pressure can the Government bring to bear to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are upheld in that country?
That is a perfectly valid question. This is something that we raise on every occasion that we meet Ministers from Turkey. The Prime Minister spoke to President Erdoğan last night, both to congratulate him but also to ensure that the findings of the OSCE office for democratic institutions and human rights report, which released its preliminary findings yesterday, are fully upheld.
As a former journalist of many years standing, I feel a particular affinity for the hundreds of journalists who are jailed in Turkey and no doubt being brutally treated. Will the Government tell the House what they are doing to highlight the plight of those brave men and women?
It is a fundamental principle of our foreign policy to defend freedom of expression and media freedom in all the countries we have associations with. This is something that we raise on a regular basis with all our counterparts in Turkey.
The right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) has perambulated away from her normal position, but we are nevertheless delighted to see her.
I agree with the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) that thousands of journalists, as well as thousands of academics and other individuals, are being held without trial in jail in Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people are being held without trial in prison there, including political leaders and members of Parliament. I ask the Foreign Office to be robust in its discussions with President Erdoğan on the safety of those people and their right to a fair trial.
I can assure the right hon. Lady that one of the advantages of our close association with Turkey is that we can speak to it very directly and firmly, in a way that many of our counterparts cannot. We have called on Turkey on many occasions to end the state of emergency that has led to many of those arrests, and we very much hope that, following the clear result of the election, the state of emergency can be lifted.
I call Giles Watling.
Question 11, if you please, Mr Speaker.
I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon, but I think that Mr Mahmood wanted to come in from the Front Bench.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. We are all concerned about the impact of this result on the human rights of those journalists, political prisoners and academics who are being held in prison, and on press freedoms and the rule of law inside Turkey. The Minister has described our close connections with Turkey. As a first step, have the Government urged President Erdoğan to lift the state of emergency?
As I have just said, we have. The answer again is yes, we would like President Erdoğan to lift the state of emergency. In the course of the elections, there were sort of commitments to do so, and we hope that those commitments can be fulfilled by lifting it as soon as possible.
Illegal Wildlife Trade
We believe that the illegal wildlife trade is not only odious in itself but associated with many other forms of criminality. That is why we are hosting a global conference on tackling the illegal wildlife trade in London this October.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, illegal wildlife trading is increasingly occurring on the interweb. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what steps are being taken to counter this?
My hon. Friend is right on the money there, and indeed ahead of the curve. We see that risk, and that is why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted a group of leading technology companies only a few weeks ago to develop new ways of combating the online trade in these specimens that he mentions.
The Foreign Secretary is right to say that this trade is odious, but what positive suggestions will the Government take to the conference in October? Are we going to let more species be wiped out before this trade is stopped?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government are among the world leaders in introducing an ivory ban. The Chinese have joined us and are bringing many others with them. We hope that the summit will be an opportunity for other nations to join that global ivory ban and, with partners, will be looking to strengthen not just the pull factors in China and other countries, but the authorities as they crack down on illegal trade in wildlife.
One of the very rarest and most threatened species in this country is the wildcat. It clings on in my constituency—just. Will the Secretary of State assure me that he will do everything to police this invidious and horrible crime in the most remote areas and work as closely as possible with the Scottish Government to stamp it out?
I am delighted to say that we will do everything in our power to stick up for the wildcat wherever it is found—[Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) seems to have a compendious knowledge of rare species, and we are very grateful to him.
Last Friday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced that he personally will lead on drawing up an international oceans strategy for the Government. Our ambitious Blue Belt programme is protecting waters around the overseas territories and we are championing the establishment of science-based marine protected areas across the Southern ocean, including in the Weddell sea.
Global ocean conservation must begin at home, so will the Minister join me in welcoming the many local initiatives around the coastline of Britain, which are playing such a vital role—particularly, I am bound to say, around the beautiful coastline of North Devon?
We all commend the efforts of local communities. Growing awareness and subsequent personal choices and actions are crucial for preserving the marine environment, and we all need to assess our own habits as consumers and play our part in safeguarding our oceans.
Effective marine conservation requires constricting fishing to sustainable levels, as in the successful cod recovery plan in the North sea. Will the Minister encourage his fellow Ministers to end the pretence that if Brexit happens British fishermen will suddenly be able to catch a lot more fish?
I think that is a slightly different point from the policy we are drawing up for the wider oceans around the world and around our overseas territories. The UK has declared large-scale marine protected areas around five overseas territories, leading to about 3 million square kilometres of protected ocean. That is a massive achievement, which we wish to build on in any way we can.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLR, meets in October and will consider three new marine protected areas around Antarctica—particularly, as my right hon. Friend mentioned, the Weddell sea. However, it appears likely that, as happened in previous years, Russia and China in particular might well block those proposals. What further action can we take between now and October to bring real pressure to bear on Russia and China to bring in these MPAs, which are so vital for the preservation of our Antarctic wildlife?
I think it is fair to say that the UK is very much a world leader on oceans policy of this sort, and I hope that any kind of environmental standards that we wish to set in our oceans are not blocked for any political purposes by countries such as Russia. We are all on the same planet, we need to preserve our oceans, and I hope that our scientific lead in this area will also give us the political authority to reach the sort of agreements that we want to.
President Trump’s recent statement on the oceans did not mention sustainability, stewardship, ecosystems or climate. When he comes to London, will the Government challenge him on that, or do they think that it would, to coin a phrase, achieve absolutely nothing? If it is the latter, what is the point of the visit?
Should I meet President Trump personally, I will look upwards, look him in the eye, and the first word on my lips will be oceans.
Mr Speaker, I assume that everyone is so happy with the smooth operation of Asian and Pacific affairs in the Foreign Office that I have had no questions until now.
Promoting human rights will remain an essential aim of the foreign policy of Global Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials relentlessly defend and champion human rights in bilateral engagements, multilateral bodies and conferences and in funding projects, particularly through the Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy.
I thank the Minister for his answer. What representations have he and the British Government made to the Indian Government in recent months in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, which I know affects a number of constituents not just in the west midlands but across the country. I recognise that this has been an incredibly difficult and distressing time for Mr Johal and his family, whom I most recently met along with their very assiduous constituency MP, the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), on 18 June.
We continue to raise Mr Johal’s case with the Indian Government at the highest level. I raised it with the Minister for External Affairs on 7 May in New Delhi, and Baroness Williams has also done so. The Prime Minister, very unusually, brought up this consular issue with Prime Minister Modi at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 18 April.
I think the constituency MP should have a chance to do so.
I thank the hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) for using his good offices to bring this matter, on which the Minister has been assiduous, to the Floor of the House.
The Foreign Secretary has met the hon. Member for Walsall North, whom I have emailed, to discuss this case, and it has been put online, for which I am very grateful because it keeps the case in the public domain. When will the Foreign Secretary now bother to meet Jagtar Singh Johal’s constituency Member of Parliament to discuss this face to face?
I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad he is in his place. He has worked incredibly hard on this. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary says from a sedentary position that he would be happy to meet him at the earliest convenient opportunity.
Yesterday’s protests in Tehran demonstrate increasing anger on human rights abuses and economic failure by the Iranian Government. Do this Government agree that we need change and reform in Iran to benefit the Iranian people?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. She is very assiduous on the Iranian issue. Yes, we are obviously looking towards getting reform within that country. A huge amount of work goes on both in the Foreign Office, in relation to the Global Britain agenda, and in that region. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East spends a considerable amount of his time on this, and I am sure he will take it up.
I understand. I have worked with the hon. Gentleman, who works extremely hard on behalf of his constituents, on a number of consular matters, including some in Asia. In relation to this desperate case—I understand the distress of Giulio’s family—we are keeping regular contact at consular level. I know these things can be very frustrating, but keeping regular contact sometimes makes a real difference.
Yesterday the Foreign Office, rather pathetically, used the cover story of a trip to Africa to throw the media off the Foreign Secretary’s scent. Can I suggest to the Minister that his boss makes a real trip to Africa to focus urgently on the violence in western Cameroon, the instability gripping the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the danger that next month’s elections in Zimbabwe will not be free, fair or democratic?
May I point out that the Foreign Secretary has visited Africa on no fewer than nine occasions during the past year? Although I assume there will not be too many difficult votes to be dealt with during the course of the year ahead, I am sure he will have that sort of commitment. The hon. Lady rightly points out that, in places like Cameroon and the DRC, we are highly respected as a Government and will continue to be so.[Official Report, 27 June 2018, Vol. 643, c. 6MC.]
The last question in this session goes to Mr Philip Hollobone.
Iran (Support for Shia Islamists Abroad)
We remain concerned about Iran’s regional activities and support for proxy groups, we regularly raise these concerns with Iran at the highest level, and I spoke to my Iranian counterpart about this last week. We also co-ordinate closely with partners to deliver strong messages to Iran on this and other regional issues.
Since sanctions relief started in 2015 and we re-established diplomatic relations, Iran has become the world’s third-largest natural gas producer and fourth-largest oil producer, and is using these funds to finance terrorist proxies—Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen. What, realistically, are we doing to stop that?
Iran’s activities in the region, and its interference and its sponsoring of terrorist groups, are a matter of concern for the UK, as well as for other states. Individual sanctions remain in place in relation to Iranian entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—a demonstration of the world’s commitment on this. However, more must be done. Iran must recognise that not only must it keep to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but other activities need to be dealt with if it is to return to a proper place in the company of nations.
My immediate priority is to mobilise international support for the chemical weapons convention. A special session of the Conference of the States Parties of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will open in The Hague today, and I hope all countries will support the UK-drafted decision, which would strengthen the OPCW. Later this week, Denmark will host a conference on reform in Ukraine, following the UK’s own successful conference, helping to modernise the economy, defeat corruption and bolster Ukraine’s sovereignty.
What is the Foreign Secretary doing to promote a ceasefire in Yemen, given the situation there, with the potential for famine and carnage in that country?
I talked last night to both UN Special Representative Martin Griffiths and the Emirati Deputy Foreign Minister, Anwar Gargash. We are urging the coalition parties to engage in a political process as fast as possible. We believe there is scope for a political process, and we have made that point consistently over the past few months.
Yes, my hon. Friend is right; these kites sound innocent, but they have indeed done a significant amount of damage in financial terms, to fields, and there are significant risks. It does not in any way help a resolution of issues if these projectiles continue to come from Gaza, and of course we condemn such actions.
I am aware of that report, and I travelled to Cameroon earlier this year to encourage the Government, in this election year, to engage in dialogue and try to resolve some of the differences with the anglophone separatist movement through democracy and observing human rights.
My hon. Friend is exactly right about that. I was thrilled to be the first Foreign Secretary to go to Peru for 52 years, and the first to go to Argentina and to Chile for 25 years. We will find Governments and populations there who are immensely anglophile and yearning to do free trade deals.
The hon. Lady’s concerns are shared by all the countries surrounding Venezuela, and the UK signed up to the conclusions of the Lima Group. Yesterday, in the Foreign Affairs Council, the European Union agreed further targeted sanctions against individuals in the Maduro regime.
There are strict controls, as there must be, on the passage and entry of goods into Gaza, to make sure that they are not used for the wrong purpose. The United Kingdom makes sure that all its aid that is delivered to Gaza goes through international partners, so that there cannot be such diversion. It is an issue and it must be dealt with, alongside a variety of issues for the people of Gaza.
As I am sure the hon. Lady understands, our consular services largely extend to British citizens. I hope that her fears that all these things will be stepped up following the election will be unfounded and that, contrary to those fears, steps will be taken towards relaxation, particularly in respect of the lifting of the state of emergency.
My strong advice is for people to look at our Be on the Ball website, where they can follow Foreign Office advice, and not to let their hopes run away with them.
Because both the resolutions brought forward by the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council were biased and not likely to produce the required answer. That is why we did not support them. We still maintain that there should be an independent and transparent investigation and we have raised the issue with the Israeli authorities directly.
That is an excellent point. Prime Minister Zaev and Prime Minister Tsipras have shown great statesmanship to get this agreement after so many years, and the UK certainly supports it.
The UN recently reported that Saudi-led coalition air strikes are responsible for more than 60% of verified civilian casualties in Yemen. Does the Secretary of State feel that the UK’s continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia are helping to quell or intensify the conflict?
The hon. Lady raises an important point, and in her concern she speaks for many people in this country. As she knows, we have the most scrupulous possible invigilation of whether or not Saudi Arabia remains in conformity with international humanitarian law, and our lawyers believe that it is still on this side of the line.
Last week’s visit by the Thai Prime Minister highlighted his Government’s commitment to the restoration of parliamentary democracy in Thailand, where there will be elections next February. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, following the recent remarkable elections in Malaysia, that is a very positive development for the region, and that the Westminster Foundation for Democracy has an important role to play in supporting and encouraging successful democracies in south-east Asia?
Thailand is an important partner of the UK, and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, whoever its chairman may be, has an extremely important role to play in this matter. My hon. Friend rightly points out that there is a sense of revitalisation, particularly in respect of anti-corruption and the culture of cronyism throughout the region. We were delighted to see Prime Minister Prayuth visit London and we are looking forward to the elections in Thailand in the early part of next year.
In the light of the legitimate concerns expressed by global businesses such as Airbus, Siemens and BMW about the post-Brexit world, will the Secretary of State confirm that and remotely justify why his response was to say “F business”?
I do not think anybody could doubt the Government’s passionate support for business. It may be that I have from time to time expressed scepticism about some of the views of those who profess to speak up for business.
What is my hon. Friend’s assessment of the state of the preparations for the elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo at the end of this year?
As my hon. Friend is aware, I travelled to the country—I think it was last month—to make that assessment. I can share with him that, as things stand, our assessment is that things are on track to respect the accord de la Saint-Sylvestre and to hold elections on 23 December, but we remain vigilant in our work with the Government there and are doing everything that we can to ensure that those elections take place.
Given the concerns expressed in this House today, and on previous occasions, will the Secretary of State use Friday the 13th to impress on this US President that we do not share his attitude to human rights, particularly his withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, and that we will maintain this country’s position as an honest broker in areas of tensions such as Israel, the middle east and Asia?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She will have heard my answer to the first question, which was exactly on the lines that she proposes.
It is now for over six years that the Ecuadorian embassy has been abused in its purpose as an embassy. How long are the Government going to put up with this?
My right hon. Friend has raised on a number of occasions the issue of Julian Assange who is, of course, in the embassy of his own choice. We are, however, increasingly concerned about his health. It is our wish that this is brought to an end, and we would like to make the assurance that if he were to step out of the embassy, he would be treated humanely and properly. The first priority would be to look after his health, which we think is deteriorating.
The car industry today is the latest in warning that the uncertainty around Brexit could put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. Yesterday, the Business Secretary said that we should take the concerns of industry seriously. Does the Foreign Secretary agree?
Of course I agree with that. To cheer up the hon. Lady, I point out that today it was confirmed that the UK is still the recipient of the biggest share of inward investment in Europe and, indeed, that our share is growing.
Ahead of the important Balkans conference, does the Foreign Secretary agree that political and diplomatic dialogue, particularly in the western Balkans, rather than nationalism gives that region a bright future?
My hon. Friend is completely right and we look forward to welcoming all participants to the Western Balkans summit on 12 July where, among other things, we will be able to chart the progress that has been made on the Macedonian name issue.
In advance of the visit to the United Kingdom of the President of the United States, and in the knowledge that Northern Ireland is the recipient of the highest levels of foreign and direct investment from the United States, will the Secretary of State make it clear to the ambassador that Northern Ireland is open to the President for a visit, and that he will receive a considerable welcome there?
I am sure that that point will be well taken by Woody Johnson.
What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Home Secretary on providing India with the same visa controls as other friendly countries?
I have noticed the discrepancy to which my hon. Friend alludes, and we are in discussions about that now.
Points of Order
A flurry of points of order. What a joyous occasion.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday evening, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work published a written statement on the personal independence payment. The statement covered a range of issues, including an announcement that a new process to identify people affected by last year’s High Court ruling concerning PIP mobility activity 1 has begun. The statement raises some real concerns and leaves many questions unanswered. In light of that, have you, Mr Speaker, had any indication as to whether the Minister will be making an oral statement on these important issues so that Members of this House can properly question her?
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer is that I have received no indication of any plan on the part of a Minister to deliver an oral statement to the House on the subject. However, she has flagged up her very real concern and dissatisfaction, which will have been heard on the Treasury Bench. There are many days to go between now and the summer recess and it is a matter to which, I suspect, she will wish to return, quite conceivably, on the Floor of the House.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter of procedure. Is there any provision in the Standing Orders of this House that defines the notion or action of flip-flopping? If not, could “Erskine May” be updated to include this, because it happens increasingly frequently in this House? Yesterday, within 24 hours, the Scottish National party orchestrated the most spectacular political flip-flop, as it backed Heathrow expansion but then abstained when it came to the vote. I would be very grateful if you could look into this issue to see whether we can define flip-flopping in the Standing Orders.
No looking into the matter by the Chair is required. I will not say that the visage of the hon. Gentleman displays a puckish grin. Rather, I would say that he is finding it difficult to contain his own excitement and hilarity at the point that he has just made. The notion of flip-flopping, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, has never found its way into the Standing Orders of the House, and I would not advise him to bet a large sum of money on the likelihood of it doing so. He has made his own point with his customary alacrity and he looks well pleased with his efforts.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.
I am not sure that there is anything further, but in my experience the hon. Gentleman often thinks that he has the last word—and occasionally does—so we will give him a chance.
I am sure that you will have the last word on this, Mr Speaker. It would of course be available under “Erskine May”—I know this is deplored, but none the less it is sometimes enacted—for people to shout one thing and vote another, which is deprecated by the Chair. For that matter, sometimes people walk through both Division Lobbies, which could be described as flip-flopping, surely.
It could be. The hon. Gentleman is right that the first practice that he mentioned is very much deprecated. Members should not shout in one direction and vote in the opposite direction; he or she can choose not to vote, but should not vote in the opposite direction. The hon. Gentleman is also right that, although it does happen from time to time—one suspects, sometimes with a degree of official encouragement from some quarters—the practice of Members voting in both Lobbies, thereby cancelling out their vote, is very strongly deprecated from the Chair. It seems to me to be not a proper way to conduct oneself in the House. Anyway, the hon. Gentleman has got across his point about the meaning of flip-flopping. I dare say that it will be heard by many people across the Rhondda and possibly elsewhere.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Not on the subject of flip-flopping?
No; it is altogether more serious. At the start of the sitting, you announced that Royal Assent had been granted to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I wonder whether you can advise how we can get it on the record that this is the first time that that has happened without the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament. This is a very serious issue, with which I know that the House has dealt. The Government had been repeatedly requested not to send the Bill for Royal Assent until an agreement had been reached. Will you further advise what opportunities exist for Members to interrogate the Government’s decision-making process around that matter?
I am not sure that my advice is required. The hon. Gentleman has found his own salvation; he has put the point forcefully on the record. As to opportunities for scrutiny, the hon. Gentleman is the most eager of beavers in this Chamber and he also has very, very important responsibilities regarding his colleagues, in relation to whom he exercises discipline and offers career development opportunities if they comply. I therefore feel sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to arrange for colleagues to air this matter between now and the summer recess, and the glow of contentment that he is displaying suggests that he knows that I am right.
Food Advertising (Protection of Children from Targeting)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent the marketing and advertising of food that does not meet certain nutritional requirements from being targeted at children.
We are all united in ensuring that children have the best possible start in life, and that includes ensuring that they have a healthy start. Sadly, for all too many young people, that is not the case—and the problem is even worse in more deprived groups. Take Scotland, where in 2015-16 the most deprived areas had a 16% rate of childhood obesity, compared with 12% in the least deprived. In fact, nearly 30% of children are at risk of obesity or of being overweight in Scotland. However, this issue affects the whole United Kingdom, with one in five children starting primary school obese or overweight. According to the Centre for Social Justice, obesity will cost our economy £50 billion by 2050.
Of course, we all know the cause of these shocking figures. Bluntly, there are far too many children in this country who are not eating enough of the food that they need and too much of the food that they do not need. Not only does this affect their day-to-day lives, but the implications for later life cannot be overestimated, not least given that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking—a statistic that very few are aware of. There is no simple solution to this, no silver bullet for this growing problem with childhood obesity. While I warmly welcome the Government’s recently announced consultation, it certainly cannot be left only to Acts of Parliament and regulations from Government Departments. That will not be sufficient and would not deliver the results we so desperately need. The driving force must come from individual households—parents and young people—making the right choices to enjoy healthy lifestyles.
But there are steps that would help, and it would be a failing of this House not to match fine rhetoric with decisive action. Schemes such as the Daily Mile, started in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), contribute to helping young people get active and stay fit. Rolling this out across the country is absolutely the right thing to do. Equally, the Government’s bold step to implement a tax on sugary drinks has not only led to increased revenue to help to tackle obesity but sparked change in the industry as it seeks to reformulate recipes.
Yet we cannot ignore the pervasive influence of advertising across the wide range of media, given that these varying media channels have become such an important part of our daily lives. There are proposals to ban junk food advertising on TV before 9 pm. Such a proposal may have its merits, but we need to be careful about the potential unintended consequences of such a blunt policy proposal and make sure that we maintain a level playing field between online and TV advertising. The original regulations, reviewed in 2010 by Ofcom, found a 37% drop in children’s exposure to junk food advertising, with particular success in the reduction for younger children, at 52%—particularly important given their greater likelihood of being influenced by adverts. So the policy is backed up by evidence.
We must recognise that advertising regulations are now out of date. They must reflect the changed ways in which we receive media and the changed viewing patterns of children and young people. Current broadcast regulations ban junk food adverts only where the programmes, and channels, are specifically for children’s entertainment. But what of family programming? Nearly 3 billion junk food adverts impacted on children through after-school television in 2015. Fifty-nine per cent. of adverts broadcast over family viewing time would be banned from children’s TV, but do we not expect children to see them during family shows such as “The Voice”, “Coronation Street” or “Hollyoaks”? This is a loophole clearly being exploited that must be closed. The high ratings of these shows mean that, despite the fact that nearly 1 million children might watch “The Voice”, because they do not make up 25% of the audience, it is not deemed a children’s show. If we reduced the percentage threshold needed to mark a programme as appealing to children from 25%, it would reduce their exposure to junk food adverts at all times.
We know how sophisticated online targeting through platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and online games has become. Despite many ongoing issues with protecting children online, I was pleased to see Google launch YouTube Kids—a safe place for child-friendly videos. That is a recognition, albeit a small one, that online publishers have just as much work to do as broadcasters in protecting children’s health. There should also be, for online publishers, a very straightforward ban on junk food promotions for children and young people.
I have heard the argument that advertising does not have an impact on obesity and that therefore Government should not intervene, but that is a red herring. A good illustration of this is the money spent on advertising in 2015. Only 1.2% of all food and non-alcoholic drink advertising was spend for advertising vegetables, while 22.2% was used for advertising cakes, biscuits, confectionery and ice cream. If producers did not see significant return for their expenditure, it simply would not be spent. Why, if advertising is such a distraction, do companies spend a quarter of a billion pounds on it and lobby so vociferously for no extension of advertising restrictions? Focus groups categorically suggest that children not only remember the adverts they see in detail but that they influence what they pester their parents for.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am not calling for a ban on all junk food advertising—that would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut—but we cannot ignore the fact that advertising is contributing to childhood obesity and that existing loopholes must be closed. I do not suggest that this will end childhood obesity. It is far too complex a challenge for such an easy solution. The Government are absolutely right to bring forward a whole range of solutions to tackle this issue, and a cross-departmental approach is exactly what we need. We have a responsibility to give our children the best possible chance at the start of their life, and this Bill, which seeks to avoid such direct targeting, is part of delivering that best start.
Yesterday, after the urgent question, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), why children from the poorest areas are disproportionately among the fattest, and I suggested that it was not because they watched more adverts. He responded that it might be the case that they watched more adverts. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) that a piece of work needs to be done before the Bill proceeds, to establish the exact role of advertising in making our children so much fatter. The reality is that children have always been the target of such advertising. She will be too young to recall, but I certainly remember the Milkybar kid, whose unique selling attraction was that the Milkybars were going to be on him.
My hon. Friend suggested a much more profitable avenue for our attention. She pointed out that by the time children came to school, one in five was already too fat. We will have those children in school for the best part of 15 years, for five days a week and 40 weeks a year. It would be staggeringly unproductive if we did not use that time to sufficiently exercise them to make them thinner. I suggest that if we have not the political will to do that, advertising is not going to do the job.
Question put and agreed to.
That Kirstene Hair, Kerry McCarthy, Conor McGinn, Fiona Bruce, Andrew Selous, Stuart C. McDonald, John Lamont, Paul Masterton, Mr Alister Jack, Jamie Stone, Mr Alistair Carmichael and Bill Grant present the Bill.
Kirstene Hair accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 November, and to be printed (Bill 237).
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to you for hearing a point of order at this stage in our proceedings. You may be aware that it is reported in The Times today that the United States Government have sought to interfere in the contents of the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee on United Kingdom involvement in rendition. If that report is true, it is a matter of the greatest and gravest importance for the House. I can think of no precedent for a foreign power seeking to interfere in the workings of our Committees. What protection can you give to the Committees of the House to ensure that they are allowed to do their work in the way that they are mandated to by us? Have you had any indications from the Government about their intention to bring the House up to speed and make us fully informed in relation to that matter?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I certainly do not seek to cavil at what he has said, because I am familiar with the thrust of the argument and concern that he is advocating to the House. I will just say that the Committee is not in fact a Committee of the House; it is a statutory Committee, in a slightly different category to all the other Committees to which we regularly refer. Nevertheless, I have heard what he said. I have no knowledge of the matter, and I have not myself read the report to which he refers.
If memory serves me correctly, the Committee is chaired by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who is a very senior and respected Member of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is well aware of the remit and autonomy of the Committee. If he felt that his Committee was being interfered with in any way, I rather doubt that he would be backwards in coming forwards. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) is himself a former senior member of the coalition Government. He will know very well, I am sure, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, and he might wish to approach him for a brief conversation, not on the detail of the report, but about his concern. If that does not satisfy him, I have a feeling that I will be hearing from him again.
Draft EU-Canada Trade Agreement Order
[Relevant Documents: First Report of the International Trade Committee, Continuing application of EU trade agreements after Brexit, HC 520, and the Government response, HC 1042.]
I beg to move,
That the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Canada Trade Agreement) Order 2018, which was laid before this House on 21 May, be approved.
I am delighted that we have the opportunity once again to debate the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between the EU and Canada, known as CETA, and that this is taking place on the Floor of this House. This follows on from the thorough and constructive debate last year and the overwhelming support shown by the full House in a subsequent deferred Division. I note that a majority of those on the Labour Benches who voted in that Division chose rightly to vote in favour of the agreement, and I hope they will continue to do so, because this debate comes at a crucial point in world trade, with the potentially destructive rise in protectionist sentiments.
Free trade is the means by which we have collectively taken millions of people out of abject poverty in the last generation, and we must not put that progress into reverse. We should also realise that trade is not an end in itself, but a means to widen shared prosperity. That prosperity underpins social cohesion and, in turn, political stability. That political stability, in turn, is the building block of our collective security. To interrupt the flow of prosperity is to risk creating a torrent of instability. We have an opportunity today to reaffirm Britain’s commitment to the principles of free trade and the application of an international rules-based system.
Does the Secretary of State accept that after exit day, we will be bound by these treaties with Canada and hopefully Japan, but that there is no legal obligation for Canada and Japan to honour their obligations to us, because we will be out of the EU? That is the big problem with leaving the customs union.
We already have had substantial bilateral discussions with Canada, and it agrees with the United Kingdom that CETA should form the basis of a bilateral agreement between the UK and Canada as we leave. However, we will have greater leeway to look at what additional elements we might want to include when we are no longer tied to the European Union.
I will make some progress.
This Government are clear that CETA is a good deal for Europe and a good deal for the United Kingdom. Our total trade with Canada already stood at £16.5 billion last year, up 6.4% on the previous year, with a services surplus of £1.9 billion. CETA will improve on this already strong economic partnership. It is an agreement that will potentially boost our GDP by hundreds of millions of pounds a year. It will bring down trade costs, boost trade and investment, promote jobs and growth and increase our ability to access Canadian goods, services and procurement markets, benefiting a wide range of UK businesses and consumers. More trade and more growth result in more money for the Treasury, with benefits for our publicly funded services. CETA is a comprehensive and ambitious agreement, the most comprehensive agreement between the EU and an advanced partner economy that has come into force so far.
My right hon. Friend referred to the benefits that may flow to Canada, the UK and the EU, but there is a broader point to be made today about the benefits of free trade to the whole world. I hope that the House—hopefully united, and with Opposition Members hopefully united as well—can send the signal that free trade is a good thing for the world economy and that it is free trade that brings people out of poverty on a global basis.
I think that something we share across the House is the belief that we would prefer people to be able to trade their way sustainably out of poverty rather than having to depend on aid budgets, and, of course, free trade is one of the key ways of ensuring that that happens. My hon. Friend is right: it is important that we send a signal, and I hope we can add to the signal that we sent last time that it is not possible to believe in the concept of free trade while not agreeing with any of the specific agreements that make free trade happen. It is important that we have consistency throughout.
Of course I give way to the Chairman of the Select Committee.
I am picking up the clear message that it is the view of the Brexiteer UK Government that the European Union has negotiated a very good trade deal. Is that correct?
We think it is the most advanced and ambitious trade deal that the EU has produced so far. That is not to say that it could not have been more ambitious in some areas, such as services. There is, of course, room for improvement in the future.
Canada is an important strategic partner too. As one of the Five Eyes, and as a member of NATO, the Commonwealth, the G7 and the G20, we have bonds that go far beyond just our trading relationship.
As Members will know, CETA was provisionally applied in September last year, removing 98% of the tariffs previously faced by UK businesses at the Canadian border, and UK firms are already benefiting. We have seen drinks exporters such as Dorset’s Black Cow Vodka and Kent-based sparkling wine producer Hush Heath Estate improve their market access and profitability with the reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers. We are also seeing new UK exporters to Canada, including Seedlip, which produces the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit. Under CETA, Seedlip does not have to pay the 11% pre-CETA tariffs on its product.
Moordale Foods, which entered the Canadian market in March 2017 with assistance from the Department, was helped by CETA duty elimination. Pre-CETA, its range of products would have been subject to duties of 12.5%. Its prices in Canada are now closer than ever to its current domestic UK price, and its products can now be found in key Canadian gourmet food outlets, including the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue food hall in Toronto. That is an example of trade in action, and of how it will help the United Kingdom to earn more abroad and provide more jobs in the UK.
The Secretary of State has suggested that when we leave the European Union, there will be things that he will wish to secure from a new trade deal that the UK will sign with Canada, in addition to what this trade deal leaves us. Can he list three things that he would like to see in that new deal?
As we will be in negotiation with Canada, I will not enter into that, but, as I have said, there are areas in which the final agreement was not sufficiently ambitious, such as services, and also issues related to data movement. There are areas in which the United Kingdom will have greater freedom when we are outside the European Union.
My right hon. Friend may be interested to know that while Wensleydale Creamery, which is just outside my constituency and makes fantastic cheese, is already trading with Canada, the agreement is bound to help it to increase that trade. He has identified the benefits of free trade very clearly, but does he accept that we also need fair trade, so that the standards—the non-tariff barriers to which he has referred—are the same on both sides of the trade agreement, and businesses are treated fairly?
That is a good point. The debate tends to revolve around tariffs rather than non-tariff barriers, which are often the biggest impediments to trade. However, as has been pointed out by Members on both sides of the House, since 2010 an increasing number of non-tariff barriers have been applied by the G20 countries. It is not acceptable for the richest countries in the world to say, “We have done very well out of free trade”, and then pull up the drawbridge behind them. If we ourselves have benefited from free trade, it is our moral duty to ensure that generations after us, both at home and internationally, benefit from it as well.
The Secretary of State is making a compelling case for supporting the trade deal, and there is a great deal of cross-party support for it, but will he confirm for the record how long it took to agree the deal with Canada, and how long it will take him to ensure that we have the same deal, or something better, once we have left the EU?
As I have already said, and as we have already agreed with Canada, the existing agreement will form the basis for the bilateral agreement that we will have with Canada when we leave the European Union. If we enact the Trade Bill—which Labour voted against last time—we will have no friction as we leave the EU, because this agreement will continue. However, that does not close down the possibility of our being able to improve on it in the future.
I will give way—for the last time, for the moment—to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood),
I am glad that the Secretary of State is now stressing to Labour Members, who do not seem to understand it, that the deal that the EU has done novates to us as well as to the rest of the EU. The EU that signed the agreement will not be in existence once we have left, so there is an equal opportunity for it to novate to us. There is no reason why it will not novate to us, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be able to improve on it subsequently.
I have said twice that we have already had discussions with Canada to see how we can build on the agreement that we will inherit as we leave the European Union. It is not a question of choosing one or the other. The agreement will already be there for us—assuming, that is, that the House of Commons passes the trade legislation which is necessary to give our businesses, our communities and our workers the certainty of continuity as we leave the European Union.
I will make some progress.
In parallel with the trade benefits to which I referred, investment in the UK from Canada continues to grow. In 2016, Canada had £18.6 billion invested in the UK and we had £21.1 billion invested in Canada.
As I have said, ratifying CETA is also an important step towards our future trading relationship with Canada as we prepare to take advantage of the opportunities offered by our exit from the European Union. During the Prime Minister’s visit to Canada in September last year, both she and Prime Minister Trudeau reiterated their intention to seek to “transition” CETA swiftly and seamlessly into a UK-Canada deal once the UK has left the EU, and formally announced the establishment of a working group to ensure that the transition was as seamless as possible. Officials from our two countries have already begun to meet to discuss that transition. It is important that, as a first step, we prevent a “cliff edge” for British and Canadian businesses.
Of course, while we remain in the EU we continue to support its ambitious trade agenda. Free trade is not a zero-sum game, but rather a win-win. Ratifying CETA will send a strong message about our determination to champion free trade, to seek global trade liberalisation wherever we can, and to support the rules-based international trading system to deliver mutually beneficial outcomes. That is a key part of the Government’s vision of delivering a prosperous and truly global Britain as we leave the European Union—
—which could not be a better way to lead into my hon. Friend’s intervention.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend not only on what he has said today—which is completely correct—but on the fact that the repeal Act to which Her Majesty has just assented reinforces the point that we will now be able to make our own international trade deals under that Act. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Government on that achievement.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course, our ability to take full advantage of what we have already agreed depends on our passing both the Trade Bill and the customs Bill in this House. If we are unable to do so, we will be unable to provide that continuity for businesses and workers in the United Kingdom, which would be hugely to their disadvantage. I hope that the Opposition will think again about their vote against the Trade Bill on Second Reading, and will give it the fair wind that it deserves during its subsequent stages.
It is important for the UK that CETA is ratified successfully by all EU member states, because ratification by all member states is required for the treaty to enter fully into force. This will give Canadian and EU businesses greater certainty that the agreement will continue on into the future.
Areas that were not provisionally applied include a large part of the chapter on investment, including the new investment court system, about which there has been extensive discussion in Parliament and in wider civil society. The UK supports the principle of investment protection, and looks forward to engaging further with the Commission on the technical detail of the investment court system. We support the objectives of obtaining fair outcomes for claims, high ethical standards for arbitrators and increased transparency of tribunal hearings.
I also want to be clear that investment protection provisions protect investors from discriminatory or unfair treatment by a state. This includes protection of UK institutional investors—for example, pension funds—where we have a duty to ensure that individual investments are protected. We have over 90 such agreements in place with other countries. There has never been a successful investor-state dispute settlement claim brought against the United Kingdom, nor has the threat of potential claims affected any Government’s legislative programme.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that any investment court system is in fact a pooling of sovereignty? He will be aware that Canada and the EU have agreed that they want to transform the investment court system into something more open, transparent and global. Will he confirm that the UK Government will also undertake to do that after Brexit?
I have set out what I believe are the principles, but the mechanism may well be different. The Commission has not yet finished its work on the technical detail of the ICS. We have reservations about the ICS as a system, but, as I have set out, we believe that there needs to be protection for investors. What we cannot do as a country is say that our investors should be protected overseas when they make investments of UK money, but a reciprocal agreement should not be in place for others. We have to ensure that this is fair and equitable, and that is what we seek to do. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman in all candour that I am not terribly attracted by the ICS, but we want to see the detail that the European Commission comes to and, when we leave the European Union, we will want to discuss with Canada what we think, on a bilateral basis, the best disputes resolution system might be.
It is also important to note that the customary international right to regulate has been re-emphasised in this agreement. Moreover, the agreement explicitly provides that member states should not reduce their labour or environmental standards to encourage trade and investment, ensuring that our high standards are not affected by this agreement. Let me say that nothing in CETA prevents the UK from regulating in the pursuit of legitimate public policy objectives.
Such objectives include the national health service. This Government have been absolutely clear that protecting the NHS is of the utmost importance for the UK. The delivery of public health services is safeguarded in the trade in services aspects of all EU free trade agreements, including CETA. Neither will anything in CETA prevent future Governments from taking back into public ownership—should they be crazy enough to do so—any services currently run by the private sector. The legal text makes this clear, if Labour Members would like to read it, although I have to say that the fear of nationalisation is the No. 1 issue that potential investors currently give for thinking twice about future investment in the UK as a foreign direct investment destination.
In fact, robust protections in CETA are covered in a number of related articles and reservations in the text. A key article is article 9.2, in chapter 9 on cross-border trade in services, which excludes services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority from measures affecting trade in services. In addition, in annex II on reservations applicable in the European Union, the UK has gone beyond the EU-wide reservations and has included additional national reservations for doctors, privately funded ambulances and residential health facilities, and the majority of privately funded social services. The UK Government will continue to ensure that decisions about public services are made by the United Kingdom, not by our trade partners. This is a fundamental principle of our current and future trade policy.
Given these extensive labour and public sector protections, which I congratulate my right hon. Friend on negotiating, could this EU-Canada agreement not serve as a template for a UK-EU trade agreement on our exit?
As the Prime Minister has made clear, we hope, given we are starting from the position of complete regulatory and legal identity with the European Union and given the size of our trade with the European Union—not least the fact that the European Union has a surplus in goods with the United Kingdom of almost £100 billion—that we would be able to negotiate an even more liberal agreement even than CETA. That is of course a decision not just for the United Kingdom Government, but for the other 27 Governments, who need to look not to political ideology, but to the economic wellbeing of their own citizens.
Let me say something on scrutiny. We have committed, through our White Paper published last year, that we will ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements as we move ahead with our independent trade policy. The Government can guarantee that Parliament will have a crucial role to play in the scrutiny and ratification of the UK’s future trade agreements, and we will bring forward proposals in Parliament in due course.
I would like to provide further reassurance to the House about the Government’s ongoing commitment to openness and transparency. Indeed, we have scheduled a debate on the Floor of the House on the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement, which the Minister for Trade Policy—it is a pleasure to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery) to his position on the Front Bench—will be leading straight after this debate. This is already over and above the engagement required for EU-only trade agreements.
Should the right hon. Gentleman be talking not only about “Parliament”, but about “Parliaments”? Last week, the International Trade Committee took evidence from John Weekes, the former Canadian ambassador to the World Trade Organisation. He was also Canada’s chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and an adviser to the Canadian Government and Parliament on CETA. One of the things he was asked was whether the central Government in Canada were tempted to make a power grab, or to deal with the provinces as they stand. He said that it added a degree of complexity, but that it made for a better deal at the end to respect the provinces of Canada, rather than deal with this centrally. Should the UK Government not ape that, and should the Secretary of State talk not just about Parliament, but about Parliaments? If we reach that stage when Scotland is still in the UK, we will need such respect at that point.
I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, although trade is a reserved power for this Parliament. We have to accept as a country that, in an age of increased consumer awareness of trade, the public will want a genuine consultation about any future agreements that the Government reach. That requires us to avoid some of the pitfalls that occurred with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, when the public felt that they had not been consulted during the process and were asked to take it or leave it.
It is therefore incumbent on Governments to devise mechanisms by which there is the fullest possible consultation not only with Parliament, devolved bodies and English regions, but with civil society. The Government will set out our proposals on that in the near future. I would add that I am grateful to the Select Committee for its thoughtful work on this area, because I think there will be quite strong consensus across the House about the mechanisms of consultation, even if we do not agree with the outcomes of such consultations.
I welcome this opportunity to make the case for CETA to Parliament, and to provide an opportunity, as the Government have done on previous EU free trade agreements, for full scrutiny of this important agreement. During the implementation period, the United Kingdom will retain access to EU free trade agreements, but we will also be able to negotiate, sign and ratify new UK-only free trade agreements for the first time in more than 40 years. In doing so, we will safeguard the benefits achieved in CETA for UK businesses and consumers, and lay a foundation for an even stronger relationship in the future. Canada is a progressive, dependable and honest trading partner, which is committed, as we are, to the World Trade Organisation and the international rules-based system. This is an important time, internationally, to show our commitment to a free trading Commonwealth, G7 and NATO ally. I commend this order to the House.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate on the Floor of the House at last. The motion is to specify CETA as an EU treaty for the purposes of the European Communities Act 1972. It is important to recognise that, unfortunate though it may be, the agreement itself cannot be changed at this stage by anything we might say this afternoon.
We want a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement with Canada. We want to boost fair and open trade with our closest allies and neighbours. Of course we do. We share a common language, unique cultural and economic bonds, the same parliamentary model and a common legal tradition, and we count Canada among our closest, oldest and most trusted allies.
In 2016, our exports to Canada amounted to some £8.3 billion—our seventh-largest non-European export market. In turn, we are Canada’s third most important export market. Our appetite for Canadian goods means that Canada runs a trade surplus with us of some $6.8 billion according to 2017 figures. We are Canada’s most important European trading partner. The vast majority of Canada’s European-bound goods move through our ports. We are the second-biggest recipient of Canadian investment. Similarly, we are the second-biggest foreign direct investor into Canada. More than an estimated 700 British firms have an established presence in Canada and some 1,100 UK firms are owned or controlled by Canadian interests.
In matters of trade, the UK and Canada face similar issues. Boeing’s efforts to have punitive tariff’s levied on Bombardier C Series aircraft threaten thousands of jobs both in Canada and here, where the company’s Northern Ireland plant engineers and manufactures wings for those aircraft. We both face the spurious and illegal tariffs imposed by President Trump on our steel and aluminium exports under the false pretence of national security.
Do we want a trade deal with Canada? Of course we do. Only by working together can we and Canada address and resolve American protectionism and make a concerted effort on the world stage to enforce the rules-based system that underpins international trade. Only by working together can we push for a serious response to global overcapacity issues.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will give way to my right hon. Friend in a moment if he is patient—I am sure he will be.
Yes, a Labour Government would very much welcome a trade deal with Canada built on the commercial and diplomatic ties that bind our two countries; a deal that seeks to further elevate our shared standards, rights and protections; and a deal that would lead to increased economic prosperity and jobs. The EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement is not such an agreement.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Given the considerable links and advantages of our relationship with Canada, if we cannot do a deal with Canada, which country can we do a deal with?
The presumption in my right hon. Friend’s question is entirely wrong. The presumption is that we cannot do a trade deal with Canada, but of course we can. We want to do a trade deal with Canada, but he will recognise that we did not want the TTIP deal with the United States even though the United States perhaps has a claim above Canada’s to be our closest ally on the international stage. The question is not who but what. Of course we can do a deal, but it must be the right deal for British business and jobs.
I spend a lot of time in Canada as our trade envoy. What would the hon. Gentleman’s message be to those British companies I meet in Canada that tell me how the provisional application of CETA is helping to boost their trade in that country and open up procurement—there are $20 billion-worth of opportunities in the city of Toronto alone. He wishes to cut that off to British businesses by rejecting this deal, so what is his message to them when they are already benefiting and helping to support jobs in the United Kingdom?
As I think I have already made clear to the House, we want those jobs and procurement opportunities, but we want them on the right terms.
For the sake of clarity, is it the Opposition’s position that the United Kingdom should not ratify CETA?
I will of course answer the right hon. Gentleman’s question—I will come to it later in my speech. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar), the Secretary of State will just have to be patient a little longer.
The CETA deal has been marred by controversy. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Europe in protest. The deal was largely conducted in secrecy and with minimal consultation. It threatens the essential ability of Governments to legislate in the public interest. That is why it is so essential that Parliament has finally been afforded the opportunity to debate the agreement on the Floor of the House.
I pay tribute to the work of the European Scrutiny Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who is no longer in his place. In this respect, the Committee made repeated attempts over the past two years to ensure that Parliament was given just such a chance. The debate has been pending since the Committee granted a scrutiny waiver to the Secretary of State in October 2016.
Going back to the earlier discussion, if the position is not to support the Canada trade deal, will my hon. Friend explain what the procedure is for negotiating a new trade deal with Canada, given the complexity of leaving the EU?
I do not know whether my hon. Friend heard the Secretary of State’s remarks. He has made it clear that negotiations are under way. The constitutional position is that all current agreements with third-party countries that we have through the EU will have to be rolled over as new agreements. They will be legally distinct. In that respect, they must all be renegotiated.
I see a lot of Members standing. I am happy to give way later in my remarks but I want to make progress now.
The debate has been pending since the European Scrutiny Committee granted a scrutiny waiver to the Secretary of State in October 2016 to proceed with signing the agreement in order to bring the trade elements, but not the investment elements, into provisional application. That waiver was on the express condition that there was prior debate on the Floor of the House. That debate did not take place.
It is unusual to bring a statutory instrument to the Floor of the House rather than to a Delegated Legislation Committee. The Government are pretending to have afforded the House the opportunity to properly debate and scrutinise a controversial agreement and one of the most extensive that the country has entered into—the Secretary of State has admitted as much. However, at this stage it is all too late. The agreement is signed and cannot be renegotiated.
On 5 July 2016, the European Commission published its proposals for the signature and provisional application of CETA. On 7 September 2016, the European Scrutiny Committee recommended an urgent debate on the Floor of the House, noting the significant political and legal importance of the agreement. On 6 October 2016, the Minister sought clearance from the Committee to sign the agreement without having such a debate. On 12 October 2016, the Committee granted the Government a conditional scrutiny waiver, allowing them to proceed with signing the agreement only after a debate on the Floor of the House—the Committee directed the Government to ensure such a debate. [Interruption.] I hear the Secretary of State muttering from a sedentary position, “Process, process, process,” but process is how the House ensures proper transparency and scrutiny.
On 17 October 2016, the Secretary of State advised the Committee that it was his intention to override scrutiny and proceed not only with the signature of the agreement but with its provisional application, despite the controversy attached to it and despite the fact that the House had been given no opportunity to scrutinise or debate it.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
On 18 October 2016, the Government confirmed their support for signature, provisional application and conclusion of CETA. Overriding scrutiny, Mr Speaker, is no minor matter. The Committee rightly called an emergency evidence session demanding that the Secretary of State account for his decision to override the Committee’s scrutiny reserve and to proceed with provisional application. The Secretary of State had the audacity to tell the Committee:
“I very much believe in the democratic process and the importance of transparency and, as the Committee knows, I have long been one of those Members who has been very much supportive of the scrutiny process and I’m sorry that the timescales meant that it was not possible to have a debate before decisions needed to be made on CETA.”
He went on to tell the Committee that this was
“down to the parliamentary calendar and the timescales set for us. However, I therefore reinforce my commitment to the Committee today to hold such a debate and I’m very happy to have that debate on the Floor of the House. Our officials are already working with business managers to identify a date most likely, we understand, in November.”
That, for the avoidance of doubt, was November 2016.
So, November comes around and, having had no indication of a debate being forthcoming, the Committee published its summary of that urgent evidence session and noted:
“We consider such a debate to be urgent and ask that it be scheduled before 13 December”.
[Interruption.] I know the Secretary of State does not like this, because it brings up all the ways in which he has sought to avoid transparency and scrutiny in this place. By 30 November, the Secretary of State failed to secure a debate in the timeframe he himself had suggested to the Committee. On 7 December, the Committee repeated the need for a debate and called for it to take place before mid-January 2017, recognising that the Secretary of State would not be bringing forth a debate by the earlier stipulated deadline of 13 December.
It was farcical. The Secretary of State had absolutely made it farcical, but it got worse. My office submitted a freedom of information request on 15 December requesting details of the correspondence between the Department and business managers regarding scheduling a debate on CETA since 1 December 2016. It may come as no surprise that the Department failed to respond within the suggested timeframe. However, a response was forthcoming by 25 January. Staggeringly, it admits in its response that the first attempt to bring forward a debate on CETA was not in July 2016, as one might expect, and not even in September when the House returned after summer recess. It was an email sent from an undisclosed official to the Government Chief Whip’s office on 25 October at 1.57 pm, just 24 hours prior to the Secretary of State’s scheduled appearance before the Select Committee.
For the avoidance of doubt, I want to reassure the House that the Secretary of State did not misspeak. He did not mislead the Committee in any way when he told the hon. Member for Stone that
“our officials are already working with business managers to identify a date”.
They had been: for a whole 24 hours and 33 minutes. If it should be that prior to being summoned to give evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee on why the Government had blatantly ignored the Committee’s limited and conditional waiver and the condition that a debate take place, the Secretary of State had instructed his officials to come up with a cover, then at least the literal interpretation of his words was strictly accurate. More troubling is his apology to the Committee implying that there had been efforts to find time to schedule a debate, saying,
“I am sorry that the timescales meant that it was not possible to have a debate before decisions needed to be made on CETA in the Council.”
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. For someone who seems so keen to have had a debate on this particular treaty, he seems very, very wary about actually getting on to the substance of the issue we are here to discuss. The only point on which I have heard him say he disagrees with what is laid before the House is some wording about it impinging on national Parliaments to regulate their own affairs. What bit of the treaty does he disagree with? Is it chapter 23, which ensures that we protect employment rights? Is it chapter 24, which ensures that we protect environmental rights? Or is it the legal text that provides protections for our NHS? What is it that he disagrees with?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pressing me on to the substantive part of the debate, but he will understand that the way in which international treaties progress through this House, the way in which they are scrutinised and the transparency with which that is done, is a matter of real importance. The reason it is a matter of real importance is that the substance of these treaties needs to be agreed in terms of a mandate. It then needs to be ensured that the scrutiny that applies is available to Members of this House at all stages. That is what in this situation entirely failed to happen.
The Secretary of State said:
“I am sorry that the timescales meant that it was not possible to have a debate before decisions needed to be made on CETA in the Council. This was down to the parliamentary calendar and the timescale set for us.”
Not possible? How did he know? He never bothered to ask. Why would the Government so determinedly pursue such a tack? The Secretary of State told us why when he admitted to the Committee in October 2016 that the
“UK could not be seen to block the agreement as it would send a negative signal to Canada.”
In a meeting between the Secretary of State and his Canadian counterpart that took place on 16 July, we are told by the then Canadian Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, that
“when I asked him if I could count on his and Britain’s continued support for CETA, he told me Britain would not just be supporting CETA, Britain would be pushing for CETA at the EU table.”
Heaven forfend that Parliament might have had a say in such a deal now that the Secretary of State had given his gentleman’s agreement to Canada!
There are two key issues that Members need to consider today. One is the issue of substance, and we will come on to the reservations on that score that exist throughout Europe, not just on the Opposition Benches, where they are currently being debated in constitutional courts and campaigned on by colleagues in the trade union movement. Incidentally, they were fully set out in Labour’s general election manifesto last year. The second issue is process. Why have the Government repeatedly attempted to avoid proper scrutiny of the agreement? The reality of today’s debate is that it is nothing more than a masquerading exercise designed to give the illusion of scrutiny when there has in fact been so little. We are now too late in the process and can do nothing to alter its course.
I think many people watching will want to be clear, given the fragile and febrile nature of their politics in the UK at the moment, on what position the hon. Gentleman would adopt on CETA if he was to find himself International Trade Secretary in a few months’ time.
If we were out of the European Union, we would then be negotiating a new trade agreement with Canada and we would ensure that all—[Interruption.] Much that is in CETA is to be welcomed, as was outlined by the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) who intervened on me earlier. Much of it is to be welcomed, but there are aspects of the trade agreement that the hon. Gentleman will recognise, and all of Europe recognises, are simply unacceptable.
Other Parliaments have, of course, had the opportunity to properly register their views on this agreement and perhaps this illustrates why the Secretary of State has been so concerned about allowing the House to have its say. In the Committee stage of the Trade Bill, I set out how a Labour Government would ensure full and proper consultation with key stakeholders—businesses, unions, civil society and the devolved Administrations—in advance of entering into negotiations on trade talks. My party believes that Parliament should have a vote to approve such mandates. That is why we tabled amendments to the Bill in respect of the same, but the Government voted down every single amendment we put forward.
Are we then to assume that, for the purposes of consistency, Labour will table a negative motion under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—or CRaG—procedure?
I will come on to our position in due course.
The European Commission hailed CETA, calling it
“the most ambitious trade agreement between countries ever undertaken.”
However, unlike other deals currently being progressed by the European Commission, it is a mixed agreement—trade and investment.
The investment provisions of CETA touch on matters of national competence and, as such, the agreement must be ratified at the national level and the regional level where appropriate. The European Commission and respective national Governments have sought to circumvent this process by provisionally applying CETA since 21 September last year, but the deal has not been ratified and is therefore not yet fully enforceable. To understand why, we need to look at the Wallonian Parliament in Belgium, which refused to ratify the agreement over concerns about investment aspects of it and, in particular, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, now known under this agreement as the investment court system. This is where process meets substance. Belgium has referred the matter to the European Court of Justice to seek a ruling on whether the investment court system is even compatible with EU law.
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case about a very flawed process. Following public pressure, the provisions in CETA for an investment court system are still only marginally better than the original investor-state dispute settlement system. Does he share my concern that this still amounts to a parallel justice system for large corporations that could render the UK vulnerable to lawsuits, such as that brought by Veolia against Egypt for introducing a minimum wage?
I absolutely share the hon. Lady’s concern. That is one reason that it was part of the Labour party’s manifesto at the last election that we would not approve trade agreements that had these mechanisms in them.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. There is some pressure on time. The hon. Gentleman has been at it for over 20 minutes and we still do not know where he stands. Is it in order for him to keep the House in such suspense?
It is quite in order for the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) to be making his opening remarks. I am sure he is not going to be too much longer; there are a lot of people waiting to speak.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Would he give way to a Labour colleague?
I would give way to a Labour colleague.
Just last week, the incoming Italian Government signalled that they too would refuse to ratify CETA when the new Agriculture Minister indicated that the lack of protections for Italian food producers presented a serious threat to the sector, calling the deal wrong and risky. France, Germany and the Netherlands have not ratified the agreement, and the Dutch Government are waiting on the ECJ ruling before determining how to proceed. In Germany, the issue is being heard in a case before its domestic constitutional courts to determine whether the investment court system is even compatible with the German constitution.
The hon. Gentleman is making a very good point but, if CETA is such a terrible deal, why did so Labour Members of the European Parliament vote for it, including their lead spokesman on the issue, who had full transparency on the deal as it was negotiated?
The hon. Lady makes a false premise. Many parts of this deal would be welcomed, but there are essential parts of it that cannot be welcomed and which would stop us, therefore, being able to ratify it in the way she suggests.
The ISDS mechanisms give superior legal rights only to foreign investors to raise disputes against our Government to petition for compensation when their profits, or even their potential profits, are impacted by legislative or public policy decisions. This effectively allows companies to sue Governments when they are legislating in the public interest; for example, by introducing plain packaging for cigarettes, national insurance, minimum wages or even banning fracking. These provisions have become increasingly commonplace in new-generation trade agreements and this is what has resulted in such widespread international public outcry against deals such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and CETA.
The proliferation of investor-state dispute settlements can encourage treaty shopping, whereby investors restructure their activities to establish in countries where they may benefit from ISDS mechanisms, should they seek to effect policy change or petition for compensation. While the Government have previously argued that the UK has only ever been subject to four such dispute cases, and that the UK never lost such a case, it begs the question: why does the Secretary of State feel that this mechanism needs to be incorporated in a deal with a country such as Canada?
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will give way to my hon. Friend in just a second.
The Secretary of State spoke about the need to give investors protection and security and he has boasted many times in the past 12 months about the record number of FDI deals that he has been able to achieve. Unaccountably, he failed to report that those deals, though record in number, showed a 92% drop in value. Today’s figures also reveal a drop in the number of deals, and the number of jobs saved by such investments is down by 54% year on year, according to his website.
Indeed, many Canadian companies have used investor-state dispute provisions in trade agreements to challenge foreign Governments, whether it has been the closing down of mines in El Salvador following a moratorium to protect unpolluted drinking water, or the Obama Administration’s decision to suspend the Keystone pipeline over concerns about potential damage to the environment. The very threat of facing such a case, even when the chance of winning is in the Government’s favour, can clearly act as a deterrent to Governments from pursuing actions in the public interest—a regulatory chilling effect. This may well have been President Trump’s view when he reversed his predecessor’s decision and greenlighted the Keystone pipeline, thus avoiding costly legal action and the chance of a substantial payout.
Having watched cases taken against the Uruguayan and Australian Governments by the tobacco giant, Philip Morris, many countries are cautious about introducing plain packaging in tobacco product laws. It is not just European Governments who have expressed concerns about ISDS.
I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Gentleman. At the moment, there is talk about the provisional application of CETA. What situation would he want with CETA? I know that he has reservations—if I have reservations about a car I am going to buy, I do not buy it. He has reservations about CETA, so would he not apply CETA? Would he provisionally apply it? What would his position on CETA be if he were the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade in a few months’ time?
I did answer that question earlier following an intervention. There are many aspects of this trade agreement that we would welcome and would wish to pursue, but we cannot—[Interruption.]
Order. Will the hon. Gentleman face the Chair? We cannot hear otherwise.
I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. There are many aspects of the deal that we would welcome, but there are elements of it that are absolutely unsustainable and constitute red lines. South Africa, India and New Zealand have all stated their opposition to ISDS procedures, and New Zealand has gone so far as to sign side letters with five counter-signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership disapplying the ISDS provisions included in that agreement. The current impasse in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement hinges on US demands to drop ISDS provisions from the revised agreement, the rationale being that their respective domestic court systems are perfectly capable of adequately settling any disputes. Indeed, if our courts are sufficient for British companies, why should they not be considered so for foreign investors, too? The United Kingdom has long been considered a safe legal system, and a significant proportion of global trade is governed by legal—
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The shadow Secretary of State has now spoken for longer than the Secretary of State. Many Back Benchers are waiting to get in on this important debate. Is he still in order?
The hon. Member for Brent North is still in order, but I point out that a lot of speakers want to come in. I am sure that he will bring his remarks to an end very shortly.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Indeed—I will respect your decision and, in that regard, I hope that nobody else will seek to intervene as I conclude my remarks.
Will my hon. Friend give way? [Interruption.]
Order. It is important that the hon. Member for Brent North is heard with politeness, because I know that he wants to bring his remarks to an end fairly quickly. I think we should give him the chance to get on and do that.
Over the past few years, the Government have entirely failed to explain why British taxpayers should be on the hook for ordinary commercial risks faced by foreign investors. If a company has concerns about the stability of the regulatory environment, it should factor that into its investment decision. Recognising the flaws in the arbitration model, the European Commission and Canada have moved to a courts-based system, but the Secretary of State covered that, so I will not dwell on it.
A Labour Government would not seek ISDS provisions in future trade agreements, but the threat to the Government’s capacity to deliver in the public interest is not confined to the use of ISDS mechanisms. Modern trade agreements such as CETA and the EU-Japan economic partnership have been negotiated using the negative list approach for the scheduling of services liberalisation commitments. Under this approach, all service sectors not explicitly exempted from liberalisation are included. The use of this method marks a significant departure from the use of the positive list in all earlier EU trade agreements, where only those service sectors listed are subject to the rules and disciplines of the agreement. It is considered a particular threat to public services, as it may prove impossible to shield them from liberalisation effectively once they have been committed to an international trade treaty.
This means that any emergent sector in the future will automatically be subject to liberalisation even where there might be a clear need for Government intervention. We cannot predict what those will be prior to their emergence, but that is the very point of using a negative list—to reduce the capacity of the Government to regulate in the future. Collectively, these measures only benefit big businesses and curtail the rights of Governments to act in the best interests of their peoples. That is why there has been so much resistance and uproar from civil society organisations and trade unions alike.
It is ironic that, just as we are told we need to leave the EU to regain control of our laws and how they are interpreted in the courts, Parliament’s ability to legislate in the public interest is being curtailed by negative lists and regulatory chill and by the establishment of a supranational courts system where foreign businesses are given superior rights to our own domestic companies and can tell our Government what they can and cannot do if they are not to sue us for taking sensible public policy decisions to protect the public against new and emerging dangers.
Similar concerns extend to the labour rights provisions of CETA. One study forecast that 10,000 jobs could be lost as a direct consequence of CETA. The threat to European jobs—[Interruption.]
Order. I must insist that the hon. Gentleman be heard out. I am sure he will bring his remarks to a close in the next minute.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may believe that the hon. Gentleman is drawing his remarks to a close, but I can see his notes. Is it not completely against convention and the good manners that are conducive to proper parliamentary debate for the hon. Gentleman to so abuse the conventions of the House?
I have to say that raising endless points of order during a short debate is not conducive to moving things along. That said, I am sure that the hon. Member for Brent North, within the next minute, will bring his remarks to a close.
The real abuse is the way the Secretary of State has ignored all the waivers he has been given by the European Scrutiny Committee and all the assurances he gave that he would try to secure this debate on the Floor of the House before it became a meaningless debate. The real abuse is the way he has conducted this whole saga over the past two years.
A Labour Government would have demanded better protections for jobs and workers’ rights. The Government’s failure to seek protections for British workers is matched by their failure to seek protections for British businesses.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will give way to my hon. Friend.
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, and I am sure that the whole House is enjoying his exhaustive speech as much as me, particularly his looking through the parliamentary entrails of this issue. For clarity, is his position and that of our party now that we believe we could strike a better deal than the EU27 as a standalone nation after Brexit?
Indeed I do. We actually said so in our manifesto. We made that clear in the manifesto that both my hon. Friend and I stood on and with which we went to the voters of this country, and he was elected on it just as I was. I propose to stand by it. I am not sure if he does.
For all these reasons, the Opposition cannot support the Government’s motion.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hesitate to raise this point of order, but in response—or non-response—to a series of interventions, the shadow Secretary of State promised the House that before he sat down he would make it clear whether he believed the Labour party would vote to ratify the agreement or lay a negative motion, which is procedurally very important under the CRaG procedure. Why did we not get an answer?
That is a matter of debate, not a point of order. I am sure that the shadow Secretary of State would intervene if he felt so inclined.
With so many people wanting to speak, I must impose an immediate four-minute time limit on Back-Bench speeches.
I rise to speak very much in favour of ratifying this agreement, and I welcome the opportunity to support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, and to record my thanks to him for doing so much good work in the last two years to establish the Department for International Trade. I also thank the superb officials at the Department, who have worked tirelessly to get our independent trade policy up and running and heading in a successful direction. I also congratulate my successor as Minister for Trade Policy, my hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery), who I think will be leading the next debate. I welcome him to his position and wish him every good fortune in his important role, in which he has a lot coming up in the next couple of weeks.
I want to reflect on the extraordinary contribution by the shadow Secretary of State. It was an abuse of procedure to speak for 35 minutes in a 90-minute statutory instrument debate and to leave others, who actually want to speak about the content of the agreement and its implications, with just four minutes each. I listened to his explanation of what happened, or did not happen, in 2016, and I thought it not really in his interests, as we could also go back to his position in 2016 and 2017, when I think he said that staying in the customs union, which I believe is now his party’s policy, would be a disaster for the country. I should have thought he was the last person to want to draw attention to what people said two years ago.
Most importantly, we heard the shadow Secretary of State speak for 35 minutes but never got a straight answer as to what his position on the agreement actually is. I think he said he would like to renegotiate it. Now, not only would that have implications for an agreement that is already in place—the provisions have been in place since September—but is he also saying he would renegotiate all the other 40-plus EU agreements, rather than seek their transition into UK agreements? [Interruption.] I think he is saying from a sedentary position that he would like to renegotiate the whole lot.
I will not take any interventions because there is no time.
I want to say three things. First, CETA itself, on its own merits, is a very good deal. It could be worth as much as £1.3 billion per annum to the UK economy. It removes all tariffs on industrial products and wines and spirits and eliminates customs duties on ciders, wines and spirits. On the investment provisions, we must remember, as the Secretary of State laid out, that the UK is the fourth-largest source of investment into Canada and the UK is the second most popular destination for Canadian investment. It is also important for the EU’s trade agenda, as it will be the first EU trade agreement to be ratified since that with South Korea some six years ago. The UK is supportive of the EU’s trade agenda, partly because we believe in breaking down barriers ourselves, and partly because the UK will seek to maintain the substance of these agreements as we go forward after Brexit.
Last time around on CETA the official Opposition split three ways. We look forward to seeing what the official position of the Opposition is and what the practical position is of their various MPs.
I will be as brief as possible to allow as many others in as possible. [Interruption.] I may take slightly longer than four minutes, but I will be as brief as I possibly can be.
The Secretary of State said we should take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the principles of free trade. I think we should take any opportunity to reaffirm principles in support of free and fair trade, but we are not engaged in a general debate on trade; we are engaged in a debate on a specific trade agreement—one which is incredibly important to the whole of the UK, and indeed for Scotland because of our history and record of trade with Canada.
I welcome what the Secretary of State said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), the Chair of the Select Committee—that he was sympathetic to finding other ways to engage and consult with the devolved Administrations, and indeed wider society. That is very important, particularly for Scotland, because we are a trading nation. Indeed, the most recent stats—year-end, quarter 1 of 2018—showed that Scotland’s international exports were growing at the fastest rate of any UK nation: a 12% increase over the year, compared with 8% for the UK—6.5% for England and as low as 5% growth for Northern Ireland. Scotland saw some phenomenal increases in trade—a 48% rise in exports with the Netherlands—and the Secretary of State laid out the trade increase between the UK and Canada.
So we would normally want to be able to support free and fair trade agreements that support and encourage trade, GDP growth, productivity growth and jobs. But trade agreements need to be properly scrutinised and debated, and to contain necessary protections to ensure that our vital public services are protected now and into the future, and there are two aspects of this CETA treaty that we must take issue with and probe. There has not been time to scrutinise it properly, and one might argue that that is now par for the course for this Government, not least in the way that they treat this Parliament. Indeed, in October 2016, the Secretary of State had to apologise to the European Scrutiny Committee after failing to make time for a debate on CETA before the decision was made in the Council by the UK Government to support it, and since then, although there have been outings in Committee, Westminster Hall and oral questions, there has been nothing substantive on the Floor of the House. It is also a disgrace that the Scottish Parliament has not been given any formal role in the negotiation process, particularly when we saw the input of the Canadian provinces and sub-state Parliaments in the EU.
Despite this lack of scrutiny, however, the UK is subject to all the rights and obligations arising from CETA while it remains in the EU, it will be bound by its obligations during the transitional period, and the UK Government’s aim is to roll over the EU trade agreements into an equivalent UK third-party agreement post the Brexit transition. It is therefore all the more important that there is proper scrutiny both in this House and the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies.
We also have concerns that CETA fails to properly secure key protections for Scottish, and UK, public services. According to a note prepared for the European Parliament—the Secretary of State alluded to this today—public services are excluded from CETA, including health, education and other social services. But the counter-argument notes that negotiators have used the so-called “negative list” approach, which means that all services are open to market liberalisation unless a specific and accurate reservation is entered, and entered at the outset. That can, of course, lead to the creeping liberalisation of public services, as negotiators have failed to include sufficiently watertight exclusions.
I am conscious that time is short, so I will end with two quotes. I heard very clearly what the Secretary of State had to say about protections, but Friends of the Earth has said—I am grateful to the Library for this—that the CETA proposals,
“offer no significant improvement to the dangerous”
investor state dispute resolution agreement
“and should fool no-one”,
and that the new or renamed
“Investment Court System is nothing but private arbitration under another name”.
The Corporate Europe Observatory and others summed up their objections in this regard by saying that,
“it would empower thousands of companies to circumvent national legal systems and sue governments in parallel tribunals if laws and regulations undercut their ability to make money.”
The very fact that those strongly worded critiques exist and run counter to what the Secretary of State says tells me and my party that there is not sufficient clarity or certainty that the protection for our public services is fully and properly in place in this agreement.
It is a pleasure to speak in support of this excellent trade deal between the EU and Canada, and in so doing I want to pick the shadow Secretary of State up on a number of points that he made in his interesting—and somewhat bizarre at times—comments. I like him personally—he is a jolly decent chap—but I am afraid his position on this is completely and utterly incoherent. The idea that he would oppose this deal while also trying to negotiate a new UK-Canada trade deal effectively puts him in the same boat as President Trump, in that he would immediately, by rejecting this deal, presumably reimpose the tariffs that have gone as part of the initial application of CETA. My question to him is: what would he say to British producers? I am thinking of companies like Isle of Harris Gin, whose launch I attended in Toronto in October, and which very successfully got into the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the second biggest purchaser of alcohol—
I am not going to give way, as time is very limited. I know that concerns the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but he has intervened a number of times.
The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) would impose tariffs in such areas immediately, damaging British interests now. Moreover, he fails to understand the position of the Canadian Government. Their position is that CETA will be the basis of the future UK-Canada trade deal. That is the position not only of Prime Minister Trudeau but of the Canadian Opposition leader Andrew Scheer, who was here and met the Secretary of State only a few months ago. So the hon. Gentleman would rip up a deal that the Canadian side in good faith wants to use as the basis of a trade deal. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman’s position is total nonsense and would be hugely damaging to those British producers who are already benefiting from the initial application of these provisions.
I also want to say something about the current environment in Canada based on what I find when I do my visits out there and also welcome Canadians here. There is massive support for this agreement in Canada, which leads into huge support for a seamless transition into a UK-Canada trade deal, because Canada recognises that, particularly in terms of public procurement, there are specific skills that this country has that are needed to make good on some of Canada’s infrastructure investment plans. In my earlier intervention I mentioned that there are £20 billion-worth of infrastructure contracts up for grabs in the greater Toronto area alone. This treaty makes it much easier for British companies to gain access to them. So the opportunities for UK companies in Canada are huge under this agreement.
On where we should go in the future, the Secretary of State rightly said that this is a good deal but we can do better, although this must of course be the basis of a future UK-Canada deal. There are two areas in particular where we should be more ambitious. First, services is a hugely important area of our economy, and we have a great deal in common with Canada in terms of services, but there are barriers at present that are not dealt with as part of the agreement, and which we would wish to see improved in a future deal. Similarly, CETA does some good things on labour mobility, but there is more that we can and should look to do with Canada in the future on the ability of companies to move people between the two economies.
Finally, I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to working with the devolved Administrations here. That is important. We must also recognise in our future negotiations with Canada the important role that Canadian provinces will play. I met with the Quebec negotiator Pierre Marc Johnson in Montreal just a few weeks ago. There is big support in the provinces for a UK-Canada deal, but we must engage with them at an early stage to ensure that remains the case.
I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on transatlantic trade. Also, like many of my constituents and many colleagues here, I have family in Canada. I will shorten what I was going to say about our strong links to Canada, but I want to stress our shared history, culture and institutions, both national and international. Also, we have heard about Canada’s Liberal Government, whose Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has been trashed by Team Trump. So, what’s not to like?
The question we have to ask is: if not Canada, who? We will obviously be discussing trade relations with the EU, but that will not be an easy discussion and it