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General Committees

Debated on Monday 19 July 2021

Delegated Legislation Committee

Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 Value Added Tax (Miscellaneous Amendments and Repeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Philip Hollobone

Abbott, Ms Diane (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab)

Andrew, Stuart (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

Antoniazzi, Tonia (Gower) (Lab)

Carden, Dan (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)

Duguid, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

† Freer, Mike (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)

† Jones, Mr Marcus (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household)

McKinnell, Catherine (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab)

Mann, Scott (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Murray, James (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Norman, Jesse (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

† Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

Throup, Maggie (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

† Williams, Craig (Montgomeryshire) (Con)

Kevin Maddison, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 19 July 2021

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Before we begin, I remind hon. Members that Mr Speaker has stated that the wearing of masks is encouraged. Hansard colleagues would be most grateful if Members could send their speaking notes to hansardnotes@ parliament.uk.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 661).

With this it will be convenient to discuss the Value Added Tax (Miscellaneous Amendments and Repeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 714).

It is a delight to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. As the names of the statutory instruments may suggest, these are two extremely technical and small instruments, but they are important because they correct errors and omissions identified in EU exit legislation. They ensure that the law applies as intended and that businesses across the UK are treated fairly by VAT legislation.

I would like to turn first to the Value Added Tax (Miscellaneous Amendments and Repeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021. This instrument, together with the Value Added Tax Amendment (EU Exit) Regulations 2021, corrects errors and omissions identified by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in a review of VAT EU exit legislation. The instrument makes those changes in relation to the Value Added Tax Act 1994 and the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018.

The amendments are needed to ensure that the VAT system continues to operate as required. First, the instrument removes an inadvertent extension of the zero rate to the transport of goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It also confirms that the VAT zero rate applies only to the transport of goods exported from or imported into the UK. Secondly, the instrument ensures that businesses moving their own goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland for non-business purposes are not hit with double taxation on those goods.

Thirdly, the instrument ensures that EU businesses selling goods that are delivered to Great Britain via Northern Ireland are liable for VAT, giving parity of treatment with goods delivered from the EU to Great Britain or from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. That approach is consistent with HMRC’s published VAT guidance on Northern Ireland. Fourthly, the legislation corrects minor errors that do not obscure the legislative intent but need to be remedied. Finally, the instrument repeals powers in preparation for a no-deal scenario that are no longer required.

It is important to add that there was an error in the original commencement date for this instrument, which was rectified by an amendment SI that was laid before the instrument took effect. As was always intended, the instrument will take effect from 1 August, alongside the Value Added Tax (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021.

I now turn to the Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021. This instrument amends a minor part of a package of tariff legislation that was laid before the House on 16 December. The package ensured that the UK had a functioning customs regime in place at the end of the transition period. This instrument, which came into force on 10 June, corrects five tariff lines—relating to chemical products, vulcanised rubber gaskets and tropical fruit—in the reference document associated with the Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The errors mainly concerned missing tariff duties on goods omitted in the original tariff reference document. This SI resolves the issue by inserting the tariff rates. Traders were charged rates on the relevant goods as intended and as traders expected, although this was inadvertently achieved without a proper legal basis. HMRC will contact any traders who were charged those rates before this legislation came into effect. However, it is worth noting that the majority of those lines saw little or no trade. The vast majority of customs duties are being collected as intended.

The measures contained in these instruments are small yet significant changes that will play a critical part in ensuring that the tariff and customs regimes operate as required in future, and I commend them to the Committee.

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for the opportunity to respond on behalf of the Opposition as we consider these two statutory instruments.

The Value Added Tax (Miscellaneous Amendments and Repeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021 make a number of changes to EU exit VAT legislation that was commenced at the end of the transition period, following the UK’s exit from the EU. As set out in the explanatory notes, a review of EU exit VAT legislation identified a number of errors and omissions that need to be corrected to ensure that the VAT system continues to operate as required. They include minor changes to address missing or superfluous words, incorrect cross-references or formatting errors, for example. The instrument makes those corrections in relation to primary legislation.

Specifically, we understand that the instrument seeks to remove an inadvertent extension of the zero rate for the services—which are not covered by the Northern Ireland Protocol—of transport, handling and storage of imported and exported goods to movements of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We understand that the instrument deems that a movement of own goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that are wholly or partly for non-business purposes is treated as a zero-rated supply. This approach means that VAT on the original purchase can be recovered, preventing double taxation through the business incurring two irrecoverable VAT charges—one on the original purchase and one on the movement into Northern Ireland.

The instrument makes further amendments to ensure the correct taxation of goods supplied from the EU to Great Britain that are transported via Northern Ireland. It does so by providing for the treatment of supplies of low-value imported goods—those sent in consignments valued at £135 or under—sold by businesses to customers in Great Britain. That provision relieves the import VAT due on the removal of the goods to the UK and instead provides that the place of supply of those goods is the UK. The instrument also makes the business, or an online marketplace if it facilitated the sale, responsible for accounting for VAT on that supply. Finally, the regulations also make minor changes to the Value Added Tax Act 1994 by repealing sections that have been made redundant by a change in policy.

We will not oppose this instrument. It is of course important that goods are appropriately taxed, that the appropriate regulations cover trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that no business faces double taxation, and that our country’s legislation is clear and correct. However, this Committee is being asked to correct mistakes and oversights, and to properly hold the Government to account, we need to understand the impact of those mistakes and oversights. The explanatory notes make it clear that the changes that we are being asked to consider have

“no, or no significant, impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies.”

However, that is not quite the same as confirming that the errors themselves have had no, or no significant, impact. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister set out what impact each of the unintended errors in legislation has had.

The Customs Tariff (Establishment) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 correct typographical errors and add commodity codes and duty rates for a small number of goods in the tariff of the United Kingdom. By amending the establishment regulations—part of the legislation to ensure that the UK’s customs, VAT and excise regimes were in place at the end of the implementation period—this instrument gives legal effect to an updated tariff reference document. We will of course not oppose minor changes to the commodity codes on two chemical compounds used for manufacturing, a subset of vulcanised rubber gaskets, and certain types of tropical fruit. However, this is not the first time we have been asked to sit in this room and correct errors in the tariff reference document. The explanatory notes state:

“There is no, or no significant, impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies.”

As with the other SI before us, that is not quite the same as confirming that the errors themselves have had no effect. I would be grateful if the Minister set out what impact these errors have had.

I am also conscious that, with repeated errors to the same tariff document being corrected, we need to know what the cumulative impact is of all the errors that have been made. Individual corrections or small sets of corrections might have no significant impact, but we do not know whether the same is true cumulatively of all the corrections that we have been asked to make over many months. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister made a commitment that, if we are asked to make further corrections to the tariff reference document, he will ensure that the explanatory notes include an assessment of the impact of all corrections made since its adoption.

I thank the hon. Member very much for his comments and for supporting this legislation. He correctly noted that the explanatory memorandum sets out—as, indeed, does the tax information impact note—that there was not expected to be any impact for the different bodies that he described, but he also raised the question of the tax impact. We are not aware of any, or any significant, tax impact, but as he might imagine, this is something over which HMRC will continue to keep a watching brief. As he will be aware, VAT is typically claimed through the chain of the system of value-added tax, so it is not a straightforward matter to assess whether there may have been some revenue loss. However, I take the point he raises, and he is right to ask the question.

On the issue of customs tariffs, I wish I could assure him that there will never be any mistakes of this kind in the future. With a body of tariffs of the scale that we are talking about—16,000 lines, in which a handful of mistakes have been discovered on this occasion—I do not think that will be possible. We have to be grown up about it and recognise that, with human error and an evolving situation, there may be moments when mistakes occur. Of course, it is absolutely the Government’s intention, and that of the Department for International Trade and the Treasury, that they should be kept to an absolute minimum.

The hon. Member is right to ask whether there might be some cumulative impact. The numbers concerned are likely to be extremely modest, as we have described in this case and a previously, but whether there may have been a cumulative impact is a proper concern. I would certainly expect that, in the review of the policy by HMRC and the Department concerned, they would ask themselves whether the cumulative impact may be significant or, indeed, targeted in some area that was hitherto unsuspected. I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising the question and will make sure that it is pursued, after giving enough time for any possible impact to become quite substantial. I do not think we should expect that within a few months, or even potentially a year or two, but it is appropriate to ask the question when it looks as though the impacts may be substantial or—this is not a point he raised, but it is an important point—unexpectedly focused in some area that could lead to an unnecessary effect on that area, even if the overall impact was quite modest.

Question put and agreed to.

VALUE ADDED TAX (MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS AND REPEALS) (EU EXIT) REGULATIONS 2021

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the Value Added Tax (Miscellaneous Amendments and Repeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021, No. 714).—(Jesse Norman.)

Committee rose.

Draft Major Sporting Events (Income Tax Exemption) (2021 UEFA Super Cup) Regulations 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: James Gray

Antoniazzi, Tonia (Gower) (Lab)

Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

Coutinho, Claire (East Surrey) (Con)

† Duguid, David (Banff and Buchan) (Con)

Jones, Mr Marcus (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majestys Household)

Long Bailey, Rebecca (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)

Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Murray, James (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Norman, Jesse (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Rutley, David (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Sultana, Zarah (Coventry South) (Lab)

Thomson, Richard (Gordon) (SNP)

Tomlinson, Michael (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Twigg, Derek (Halton) (Lab)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

Joanna Dodd, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 19 July 2021

[James Gray in the Chair]

Draft Major Sporting Events (Income Tax Exemption) (2021 UEFA Super Cup) Regulations 2021

On a point of order, Mr Gray. In the context of today’s extraordinary weather, I am afraid that I have inadvertently left my jacket in my office. In order not to delay the Committee, do I have your permission to proceed without my jacket?

Being a very old-fashioned bloke, I entirely disapprove, but on this particular occasion, I am happy to allow the hon. Gentleman to remain improperly dressed. I am grateful to him for his courtesy in raising the matter with the Committee.

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Major Sporting Events (Income Tax Exemption) (2021 UEFA Super Cup) Regulations 2021.

The draft regulations provide an income tax exemption for accredited overseas individuals—however they may be dressed, Mr Gray—who participate in the annual UEFA super cup football match. The exemption will apply to any UK income that a non-UK resident receives for playing in the match or for duties and services performed in connection with the game.

The Committee will be aware of the severe impact of coronavirus on all sporting competitions since March 2020. Numerous large-scale events in this country and around the world have been cancelled or postponed to protect public health. It was very good to hear, then, that the Irish Football Association was successful in bidding to host the annual UEFA super cup game, which this year features Chelsea, winners of the Champions League, and Villareal, winners of the Europa League, in Belfast on 11 August. It would be wrong for me to display any partiality about the outcome of that game, but Villareal beat my team, Manchester United, in the final of the Europa League, and we are not at all sore about it. I am sure Members on both sides of the Committee will agree that the hosting of such a high- profile match will be a further welcome sign that the UK is returning to a more normal sporting environment.

Let me turn to the specific legal changes being made. As a fundamental condition of hosting the 2021 UEFA super cup game, the UK is required to provide an income tax exemption for competitors and officials who are not tax resident in this country. In previous years, the Government have opted to provide statutory tax exemptions for a range of similar sporting competitions, including the 2017 UEFA Champions League final, the 2017 world athletics championships and, of course, the 2020 UEFA European football championship. As that list illustrates, a tax exemption is reserved for only the top sporting events, and any decisions are made case by case.

To be considered for a tax exemption, an event must satisfy three policy conditions: it must demonstrate the highest level of world sport; it must be internationally mobile; and the granting of an exemption must be a necessary condition of a bid to host the event. I hope the Committee agrees that it is consistent with Government policy to provide a similar exemption now for the UEFA super cup game.

The statutory instrument makes use of the powers introduced in the Finance Act 2014 to provide a tax exemption through secondary legislation. The exemption from UK income tax will apply to non-resident players, officials and individuals designated by UEFA on income earned in connection with the super cup match. The exemption will run from 10 to 12 August 2021.

I conclude by acknowledging that the past 18 months have been difficult for sport. The regulations will help to support the sector and provide a welcome boost for Northern Ireland.

Thank you, Mr Gray, for the chance to set out the Opposition’s position on the statutory instrument, despite my present attire.

Neither will I. As we have heard, the instrument will remove income tax liability from accredited persons who are non-resident in the UK but who earn income in the UK arising from work related to the UEFA super cup, which is scheduled to take place on 11 August between Chelsea and the Spanish club Villareal. The football match is due to be held at the Windsor Park national stadium in Belfast, and the income tax exemption is valid from 10 to 12 August. Beyond the non- residence condition, accreditation entails that the beneficiary of the tax relief work for, or be contracted by, one of the clubs that are participating in the super cup, UEFA or broadcast, commercial or media organisations working with UEFA for the purposes of the super cup match.

May I start by congratulating the Chelsea team on winning the Champions League and booking their spot in this prestigious cup match? I am sure I speak on behalf of all members of the House of Commons—except, perhaps, the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson)—when I put on the record my admiration for and thanks to the Chelsea players who represented England at the recent European championships: Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell. I also put on the record how pleased I am that Windsor Park was selected for this match. It hosted its first match nearly 120 years ago, so it is very welcome that this iconic Belfast landmark will now host such a significant European game.

We will not oppose the statutory instrument because we know the income tax exemption was agreed as a condition of the bidding process to host the 2021 UEFA super cup match in the UK. In January 2019, the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), confirmed to UEFA in writing that all the necessary tax exemptions would be given if the Irish Football Association in Northern Ireland were awarded the match. We recognise that that is consistent with the treatment of other world- class events, not least the recent final of the Euros

Although we will not oppose the instrument, I will use this opportunity to ask the Minister to set out his view on the low pay often received by those who will not benefit from the exemption granted by this statutory instrument, but whose contributions are critical to the organisation and delivery of the event—stewards, bar staff, workers at food kiosks, cleaners and many more besides. It is striking that just four clubs in the premier league have committed to the living wage and are accredited by the Living Wage Foundation. We know that football clubs are built by their fans and communities, so I would be grateful if the Minister set out whether he agrees that British football clubs owe it to their communities to be fair employers and to commit to the living wage.

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his question and for his party’s support for the legislation.

Of course, I am speaking as a Minister in the debate. From that point of view, it would be in appropriate for me to be volunteering personal views that might be taken to be indicative of the Government’s position. The Government certainly recognise the situation of the people the hon. Gentleman describes. It is important to say that although the instrument may not affect them, it certainly affects a wide range of people involved in the staging of the event who may not necessarily be plutocratic or have great incomes, as many footballers do.

The hon. Gentleman’s point that people should be properly paid is an important one, and it was recognised by the Government in the way that the last Chancellor but two or three—the former right hon. Member for Tatton—took specific measures to raise the minimum wage and support people on the lowest incomes. That has also been reflected in the ways that tax policy has evolved with the raising of the threshold for income tax.

The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the status of those people and to the situation of people on modest incomes. It is right for the Government to continue to support those people through the tax system. Although those issues have little direct bearing on the instrument before us, I think it is important that they are often taken in public, and I am grateful to him for raising them.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

DRAFT EUROPEAN UNION (FUTURE RELATIONSHIP) ACT 2020 (REFERENCES TO THE TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT) REGULATIONS 2021

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Edward Leigh

Beckett, Margaret (Derby South) (Lab)

Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

Davies, David T. C. (Monmouth) (Con)

Fellows, Marion (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

Fletcher, Mark (Bolsover) (Con)

† Furniss, Gill (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)

Harris, Rebecca (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Hollinrake, Kevin (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)

Johnson, Kim (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab)

Jones, Mr Marcus (Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majestys Household)

† Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

† Mordaunt, Penny (Paymaster General)

Ribeiro-Addy, Bell (Streatham) (Lab)

Sambrook, Gary (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)

Smith, Nick (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)

† Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)

† Tomlinson, Michael (Lord Commissioner of Her Majestys Treasury)

Dominic Stockbridge, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 19 July 2021

[Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Draft European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 (References to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement) Regulations 2021

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 (References to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement) Regulations 2021.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. As hon. Members will be aware, and following the negotiations that took place last year, on 31 December 2020 the process of transition to our future relationship with the European Union was completed. We have recovered our economic and political independence, upholding a key demand of the British people and fulfilling our manifesto commitments. We are now focused on seizing the opportunities of being an independent sovereign nation.

The first trade and cooperation agreement partnership council, which took place in London last month, represented the start of the TCA governance. Both the substantive partnership council agenda items, and the formal launch of the wider governance apparatus, signal a milestone in the future relationship between the UK and EU. The secondary legislation before the Committee is required to help to ensure the future functioning statute book and provide clarity for businesses and citizens alike.

The Minister might have seen the media story over the weekend about a suggestion that the UK-Ukraine trade deal, which the Prime Minister signed, contained a series of errors apparently still binding the UK to certain EU rules. I wonder whether she could explain what those mistakes were and how they relate to the statutory instrument, or whether we will have to come back to debate another statutory instrument, given those errors.

I do not intend—you will be relieved to hear, Sir Edward—to talk about things outside the scope of the particular correction that we are making this afternoon. I think that all Members should welcome the trade agreements that we are signing. The Department for International Trade has done a sterling job in rolling over agreements, but also in forging new ones. I am sure we want them to be technically accurate. If there are any difficulties, I am sure that both parties—both our Department for International Trade and whomever we are signing that particular deal with—will make those corrections, but I am keen to emphasise that this extremely dry and narrow amendment is technical in nature and is not new policy, as the hon Gentleman will understand. It is simply to ensure that the statute book works coherently and effectively, allowing the legal revision process of the trade and cooperation agreement, as signed by the EU.

The instrument was laid by Lord Frost following the affirmative procedure in exercise of the powers provided for in the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020. Those powers allow Ministers to make amendments that they consider appropriate in pursuit of coherence and clarity following the legal revision process envisioned by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

On the Minister’s point about the need for coherence and clarity, can she explain to the Committee whether the statutory instrument will in any way reduce the extra red tape that the TCA created for businesses, particularly those businesses, say in England, which want to trade with Northern Ireland?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the debate that took place last week on the Northern Ireland protocol and, indeed, many other such debates that we have had, which are focused on the solutions that we are putting forward to deal with friction—unnecessary friction, as we see it. He will know that many things are going on to address those issues, particularly in relation to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and he will know that we expect further information about that before the summer recess. Again, I can appreciate why he might want to liven up the debate by talking about other issues, but we are making some very technical amendments that do not affect policy in any way. Largely, they are about the numbering of particular articles; he will appreciate the complexity and the flux when producing the innards of the agreement.

I draw the Committee’s attention to the use of the affirmative procedure, which allows colleagues in the House and in the other place, in their respective debates, to scrutinise the instrument and the background to it, which I will now set out. The trade and cooperation agreement, along with the security of information agreement and the nuclear cooperation agreement, was provisionally applied from 23:00 hours on 31 December 2020, in time for the end of the transition period, pending ratification. The Government subsequently agreed to the European Union’s request to extend the original period of provisional application to 30 April 2021, to give it more time to complete those processes. The EU completed the processes before the end of April, and the agreements therefore came into force on 1 May.

Due to the short time available between concluding negotiations and the end of the transition period, it was not possible to complete the necessary legal revision processes before the agreements were provisionally applied on 31 December. Instead, the agreements have since undergone a final process of legal revision. That legal revision process is provided for by article FINPROV.9, now article 780, of the trade and cooperation agreement. The processes identified typographical and other errors in the trade and cooperation agreement, which were corrected, and the articles were renumbered from article 1 through to 783.

I must make it clear that the substance and policy content of the agreement has not changed. Following the legal revision to the trade and cooperation agreement, some of the corresponding numbering and references to the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 must be updated, and that is what this statutory instrument seeks to achieve. The instrument is required to update references in the Act, including numbering and annexes, to ensure that it matches what is contained in the revised trade and co-operation agreement.

It is vital that businesses and citizens are clear about their legal status and obligations. This instrument provides clarity and will allow businesses and citizens to pursue the opportunities of our agreement with confidence. I am sure that hon. Members will have questions about the extent of the changes that this instrument makes. I can confirm that the main changes to the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 as a result of this instrument are the renumbering of the articles and the correction of cross-references to the trade and cooperation agreement in the Act. For example, in section 15(2)(a) of the Act, “Article TBT.9” will now become “Article 96”, to reflect the legally revised version of the trade and cooperation agreement. I will spare hon. Members of further examples, but there are many.

There was engagement with the devolved Administrations prior to the laying of the instrument, and they are content. I am grateful for the opportunity to note our thanks to them for their co-operation on this and, indeed, the wider body of secondary legislation delivered in the past year, carefully ending the transition period. I hope I have provided some helpful background to the instrument and that all members of the Committee agree that it performs a simple but important role in ensuring the certainty and clarity that citizens expect from our statute book.

Let me endorse the fact that it is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, for this debate on the statutory instrument. Certainly, at first glance, the instrument does not appear particularly contentious, and unless something quite shocking crops up during our debate, we will not try to block its passage. It appears at first glance to be a correction of some 20-plus references in the 2020 Act to the trade and cooperation agreement, although it prompts a number of what I hope the Minister recognises are gentle questions and concerns.

If the Government could not even do a technical revision before the agreement came into force and ensure that the implementing legislation was final, how on earth could they expect businesses to understand the deal and adapt to a new trading relationship, especially as the Government themselves had admitted that the document was signed too late to allow the lawyers to take a proper look at it? That raises another gentle concern about the instrument and the manner of its being required. This seems to be another example of the Government not properly checking the deals that they have signed. Sadly, there is a growing number of such examples.

Let us take the freeports blunder, when the Department for International Trade accidentally ruled out some £35 billion-worth of exports from tariff-free trade for England’s eight new freeports because it included the duty drawback prohibition clauses from those roll-over deals. Then there is of course the Prime Minister’s new yacht. He obviously had had the ambition that only British shipbuilders would bid to make it, yet once again, because Ministers at the Department for International Trade failed to exclude the construction of civilian ships from the list of those contracts that must be open to global competition when it signed the World Trade Organisation’s Government procurement agreement last October, there appear to be some concerns. Imagine, Sir Edward, if—God forbid—the French should win the contract to build the Prime Minister’s new super-yacht because of the failure of the Department for International Trade.

I raised earlier the example of the UK-Ukraine trade deal, which is one of the most sensitive post-Brexit agreements; indeed, it is the only roll-over deal signed by the Prime Minister. As I said in my intervention on the Minister, some of the errors apparently bind the UK to EU rules. Given all the Government’s talk of not wanting to be bound by EU rules, you might have thought, Sir Edward, that Ministers would have checked that part of the agreement particularly carefully.

Then there is the Minister’s own boss, who negotiated the Northern Ireland protocol, admitting that some companies in Great Britain have found it “too much trouble” to trade with Northern Ireland and that he had not fully foreseen the “chilling effect” of the punishing new red tape, which has left many smaller firms facing higher costs.

There is, too, the sense that the statutory instrument represents a bit of a missed opportunity. Ministers could have used it to build on the deal that was done so late and so badly. Perhaps the Minister will give us some clue about where negotiations with Brussels are on a veterinary agreement, for example. Is Lord Frost still determined to reject the EU offer on a veterinary agreement, because it would—apparently—prevent Britain from joining the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership?

I ask that question in the context of the growing concern about the scale of difficulties that British exporters have faced with post-Brexit red tape and disruption at the UK-EU border, particularly around sanitary and phytosanitary controls. That has led to many businesses and their representatives arguing publicly for a veterinary agreement with the EU. Once the Minister has reflected on the debate, I wonder whether she might be willing to acknowledge privately, if not to the Committee now, that some of the other key trade deals that the Government have done are not quite as important as the trade deal that we are discussing today. According to the very best case scenario, the Australia deal will be worth just 0.025% of UK GDP over the next 15 years—and, of course, along the way it will do huge damage to farming, particularly in Scotland and in Wales.

The International Trade Secretary’s top deal, the CPTPP, looks set to yield, at best—again, this is according to independent forecasters—only very marginal economic benefits. Surely, improving the poor deal under discussion, which was so badly negotiated by Ministers, is key to our country’s future economic prospects. How will Ministers help not only musicians and those young people who want to be guides in the ski resorts of our European allies, but, crucially, those in financial service businesses, architects, interpreters, IT installers, management consultants and business traders whose jobs have been made that bit harder and are potentially on the line because Ministers would not do a visa-free trade deal with the European Union?

It is a privilege to have the chance to debate the statutory instrument, but it would not have been necessary if Ministers had negotiated a better deal. Sadly, that reflects a growing pattern of mistakes, particularly by the Department for International Trade in negotiating trade deals. One hopes, for the sake of businesses and jobs in our country, that the Government’s performance improves significantly after the recess. None the less, we will not oppose the instrument.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support. He has done a good job of trying to liven up the proceedings, but I remind him that the statutory instrument is about changing the numbering of paragraphs in the articles and providing neat and tidy clarity both to us in this place and to our citizens and businesses.

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on businesses. I will not go through everything I said in last week’s Backbench Business debate, but we have done a tremendous amount to enable businesses to be ready for the transition and to maximise the opportunities that will come with Brexit. They have done a tremendous job and we have been right to focus on them. I repeat that the EU’s obligations under articles 1 and 6 of the Northern Ireland protocol mean that it should take a pragmatic and risk-based approach to protecting its single market while also honouring the internal market of the UK. Last week, I gave copious examples not only of where that has not been the case, but of where we have been proactive in reducing unnecessary friction and proposing solutions. We have produced a dozen papers to tackle the remaining issues, which the hon. Gentleman was right to raise and which are of great concern to us. We are making progress on those issues.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned in particular the comprehensive veterinary agreement. He may not know this, but in last week’s debate his party spokesman committed Labour to supporting the Government’s proposal on a comprehensive veterinary agreement. Labour knows that the EU’s proposal cannot work for us. Again, we should take a pragmatic, risk-based approach. We have an advantage in the fact that we have been trading as part of the EU bloc. I welcome the pragmatic, positive step taken by Opposition Front Benchers to support British businesses. Long may that continue.

The hon. Gentleman pushed the scope of the debate by introducing the royal yacht, but I am very confident—

Order. I have to say that the scope of the delegated legislation is extremely narrow. It is completely up to the Minister how she replies to the debate, but she should bear in mind that the royal yacht is perhaps one holiday trip too far.

Thank you for your guidance, Sir Edward. I shall content myself with simply saying that I am confident that our British ships will be built in UK yards.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned trade deals. The biggest divide in politics at this moment is not between left and right, but between optimists and pessimists, and we on this side of the Committee are optimists. I am confident in our potential and in our businesses’ potential to maximise their exports. We wish to focus on growing those trade agreements, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman is in agreement with us on that.

I shall leave it at that, Sir Edward, and simply reiterate my thanks to Members for contributing to the debate. It has been technical, but this is important secondary legislation that demonstrates the Government’s commitment to ensuring certainty and clarity in the UK statute book. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.