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Trade Bill

Volume 809: debated on Monday 18 January 2021

Third Reading

Relevant documents: 15th Report from the Constitution Committee

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Trade Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

My Lords, as the Government have made clear throughout all stages of the Trade Bill, the UK Government are committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations to deliver an independent trade policy that works for the whole of the UK. I am pleased to say that the Senedd and the Scottish Parliament have both granted legislative consent, and I am grateful to colleagues in the Welsh and Scottish Governments, who have worked tirelessly to consider this Bill and schedule the necessary votes. However, the Northern Ireland Executive have not brought forward a legislative consent memorandum, and the Assembly has therefore not voted on legislative consent. I reassure noble Lords that the Government will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Executive.

Clause 8: Standards affected by international trade agreements

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 8, page 8, line 23, leave out “in advance of such agreements being” and insert “are”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is to clarify the drafting of this provision.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Grantchester, who has unfortunately been delayed on his way to the House, I beg to move Amendment 1. This is a technical amendment to correct an error that was made in the original drafting, and I understand that the Minister and the Government will not be opposing it.

My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to say just a few words about this amendment. Although it is technical, the intention is to provide clarity to that part of Clause 8 which sets out the procedure whereby the Government propose to implement an international trade agreement which has an impact on standards in domestic legislation relating to, for example, social, environmental or animal welfare standards. I completely understand that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in tabling this amendment is to make it clear that the legislation relating to standards should complete its parliamentary processes, as the clause says, prior to the trade agreement being laid.

I am not really speaking about that aspect of it. Indeed, I draw attention to the fact that, notwithstanding Clause 8, Clause 7 has what I would regard—not least because I moved the relevant amendment at Report—as a better formulation, which requires the subordinate legislation, secondary instruments, to have been laid before the ratification of the trade agreement and for the primary legislation required for its implementation to have been passed before ratification. However, Clause 8, as clarified by this amendment, has the effect of meaning that the parliamentary procedure in relation to domestic legislation has to be completed before those texts are laid before Parliament. I think that is unnecessary and rather burdensome, and it would be better to rest on the text in Clause 7, which requires the legislation to have been passed prior to ratification.

The point I want to make is actually about impact assessments. If, in response to this short debate, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—who I see is, happily, now in his place—can explain why impact assessments should not be laid before Parliament prior to the completion of parliamentary processes relating to the implementation of domestic legislation, I would welcome that. That seems unnecessary—indeed, undesirable. It would be better were impact assessments formulated and laid before Parliament relating to domestic legislation which implements any change in standards in this country consequent to an agreement in an international trade context. For them not to be required by legislation to be laid before Parliament until the text of the trade agreement itself is laid seems unnecessary and undesirable.

I do not oppose the amendment, as it has the effect of making clear that subsection. However, what the subsection suggests, particularly for impact assessments, is undesirable. As it happens, as we dispatch the Bill to the other place, this clause rather duplicates what is set out in Clause 7. It would be better to retain Clause 7, rather than the formulation in this part of Clause 8.

My Lords, I welcome Amendment 1, as it brings greater clarity, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—who I am delighted to see in his place—for bringing it forward.

I take this opportunity to put a question to my noble friend the Minister, and to thank him for the openness he has shown throughout proceedings on the Bill. Does he have a timeframe in mind as to when the code of practice, as envisaged under Clause 8, is to be brought forward? I imagine that is also subject to Amendment 1 before us this afternoon. Will the code of practice envisaged be general, or does he envisage that a separate code of practice for each future international trade agreement may need to come before the House?

As my noble friend is aware, I care passionately about maintaining the standards in paragraphs (a) to (f): in particular, food, animal welfare and the environment. Does he share my concern at the noises off, which are saying that, now we have left the European Union, we do not have to maintain those high standards? Can he, from the Government’s perspective, quash any such move, paying tribute to British farmers and to the high standards to which they produce our food, to which consumers have become accustomed and wish to continue to purchase? With that, I give Amendment 1 a warm welcome.

My Lords, I also welcome the amendment, and I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, who is back in his place. I hope his journey was safe.

I want to pick up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in his characteristically accurate and sensible contribution. We will probably debate impact assessments, including their value and necessity, to some degree during ping-pong if the Government make the regrettable decision not to support what was Amendment 6, which refers to the need for independently verified impact assessments on trade agreements. Many of us are rather startled, and indeed worried, by the fact that, on the biggest trade agreement of them all—the one with our European Union partners—the Government have maintained a position of refusing an economic impact assessment, even after all the statements made during the passage of this Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, whom I hold in very high regard, that it is the Government’s position that every trade agreement will come with an impact assessment. I hope the Government can clarify their position and say that we will get an impact assessment with our trade agreement with the European Union.

I want to comment on the necessity of having this amendment corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, as has been remarked on. In an interview in the Financial Times last week, Tim Smith, the outgoing chair of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, made some very strong statements, which I support, about the UK not entering a “race to the bottom”, needing to be vigilant on behalf of the different elements of the UK—rural and agricultural business, in particular—and wanting to see the Government, in their permanent arrangements for the independent body that we have now established under the Bill, being as strong as possible on standards.

I therefore share the unease indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, whom it is always a pleasure to follow in these debates. The Government seem set on an agenda that demonstrates why their approach needs to be different from that previously taken in the European Union. This might be just to show that we are different, rather than being at all meaningful, but the damaging aspect is that, as Tim Smith indicated, there are many countries with which we have had rollover agreements—and will have trade agreements in future—but which do not prohibit the use of the same chemicals, additives and procedures in the rural industry as we do. Our trading relationships with them should be about us maintaining our standards and working with partners to see the ever-increasing standards that they enjoy.

This minor and technical amendment, which I hope we will see go through to be in the finalised Bill after the House of Commons considers it, is of value. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, has brought it forward and I support it.

My Lords, I will be brief in my remarks on Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I will restrict my remarks to this amendment rather than to the underlying amendment that it would amend.

We disagree with the fundamentals of the clause voted into the Bill on Report. However, we believe that there is no sense in dividing your Lordships’ House over this amendment, which aims to clarify ambiguities in the drafting in a previous amendment. I noted carefully the comments made by my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

As far as the code of practice and its timing are concerned, until the Bill has completed its passage and been subjected to ping-pong, we will not know exactly what will be in it, so we have not yet turned our attention to the detail and substance of the code.

I agree completely with the comments of my noble friend Lady McIntosh on the importance of food standards; we have been pleased to reiterate that constantly during the passage of the Bill. I join her in applauding the great work our farmers do day in, day out.

We will not oppose this minor and technical change to the clause, and we will return to debate the detail of this provision at the appropriate time.

My Lords, I shall start with a quick apology. My train down this morning was part of the new lockdown schedules and did not exist, so I took the next one; I thought that I would still be all right but, as we discovered, I was two or three minutes late. I apologise for that. I thank my noble friend Lord Collins for standing in for me and moving the amendment formally, which is all I would have done in any case as this amendment was discussed earlier during the passage of the Bill. I was notified that it was slightly unclear—hence the correction before the House today.

I am grateful for the further comments I received from noble Lords in looking at the amendment again, but the substantive point is that we are happy to have this part of the Bill looked at again by the Commons and to have time to discuss it, because the points are well expressed and the thrust of the amendment is very cogent. The Commons will look at it among the totality of the clauses in the Bill. I am sure that this will give an opportunity for further clarity, assimilation and—how can I put this?—alignment between the various clauses to make better sense of it.

On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, yes, it is important that statutory instruments come with impact assessments. As to whether an impact assessment is required for every trade Bill—or, indeed, every statutory instrument needed for every trade Bill—I am sure that the Minister, when he is going through trade Bills and the CRaG procedures as determined already, and by amendments to this Bill, will clarify that and make it clear. I am sure that he will also make it clear that, of course, once this Bill becomes legislation, the Government will do all they can to facilitate a full debate in both Houses.

Amendment 1 agreed.

My Lords, we now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in the debate.

Schedule 3: Exceptions to restrictions in the devolution settlements

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Schedule 3, page 25, line 23, after “(5)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

My Lords, as stated on Report, the Government bring forward these amendments in the light of the passage of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020. These amendments will revise the paragraph numbering in Schedule 3 to accord with the amendments made to the respective devolution Acts by the aforementioned Act. Schedule 3 relates to exceptions to restrictions in the devolution settlements. Although these amendments amend Schedule 3, I assure noble Lords that they are minor and technical and will not make any substantive policy changes to the Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, my interests are as listed on the register. I will be brief; I fully endorse all the amendments proposed in this group.

I have a few comments on the proposed trade and agriculture commission but, first, on behalf of my friends on the Cross Benches, I thank the Minister for being so helpful and considerate throughout the passage of this Bill. His patience and willingness to engage have been very much appreciated, particularly when the sense of time pressure has been apparent. Obviously, the constraints of the pandemic have imposed on the parliamentary process, and coupled with the need to speedily expedite so many Bills to meet the timetable determined by leaving the European Union, this has placed enormous pressure on the system—not only on Ministers but on the myriad of staff teams that have of necessity been required to support this demanding timetable. I thank all for their valuable support, which has been incredibly important and is very much appreciated.

I thank the Government again for recognising the need for the trade and agriculture commission, and for deciding to give it statutory footing through the Bill. This is a hugely important step forward and is valued by all key stakeholders. I have a very straightforward request for clarity from the Minister, and I apologise for raising this again. It is on the relationship between the TAC and the food standards agencies. I am deliberately using the plural because of the separate functions that exist within the United Kingdom, and these amendments today are addressing issues relating to the United Kingdom. Removing human health from the remit of the TAC—because, one assumes, the food standards agencies will undertake that responsibility—raises the question of how this will work in practice when a new trade deal is being scrutinised by all these bodies, and how this will be reported to Parliament. Will there be a number of separate reports, will the individual bodies and agencies collaborate and produce a joint report, or will the Secretary of State filter the various reports before submitting to Parliament?

I know that the Minister tried to respond to these issues on Report, so I apologise that I am probably stretching his patience to the limit, but I am still rather confused and would appreciate it if he could please explain it again so that I have clarity. I end by thanking all staff once again for their immensely valuable help with this most important Bill.

My Lords, I declare my interests, notably as chair of the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and of Crown Agents. I congratulate the Minister and my noble friend Lord Younger on getting this important Bill to this stage after such an extended passage. I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, about the support provided by the Ministers and their professional and helpful team.

Britain has a great trading history and we must enter the new era with confidence, backed by our strengthened Department for International Trade and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I spell them out for good reason: there is potential in goods, services and digital.

My noble friend will recall that there were some uncertainties on Report, and that in summing up and withdrawing his amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, said that he or I might come back at Third Reading. This seems the right place to ask my questions, since the operation of powers in the devolved nations was under discussion. That has been clarified in these government amendments, to which I do not object, despite the earlier reservations I had expressed. I have given advance notice in the hope that the Minister can reassure me.

The clauses on trade information enable HMRC to collect information about UK exporters. It has been made clear all along that compliance with the request would be entirely voluntary. On Report, my noble friend the Minister said that the practical implementation of this would be a “tick box” on the tax returns—presumably, both corporate and personal. However, he gave no indication of the sorts of questions that would be asked; can he kindly do so today? I appreciate that this will be in regulations in accordance with what was Clause 7(4), but we need an idea of what information will be sought. For example, will it be the name of the trader, and which country or countries they exported to in the tax year in question? Will they need to provide a breakdown of customs headings?

In our wish to have well-informed trade policy we must not forget the Prime Minister’s new-found instructions to reduce red tape. I agree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, about the usefulness of impact assessments, and I thank my noble friend the Minister for the impact assessment that was produced for this Bill. Will an impact assessment be prepared on the regulations on data gathering and so on, and will that be cleared by the Regulatory Policy Committee? I fear that any reply that is more complicated than “yes”, when multiplied by the number of those involved in trade and filling in tax forms—which will obviously include exports to the EU under the new regime—is bound to have net compliance costs of more than £5 million.

On the same theme, perhaps the Minister could kindly confirm that the Henry VIII power that was in Clause 7(4), and is now a little later in the Bill, will be used only to put these voluntary questions on the tax return, as he said last time. If, for example, it is going to be used for other reasons, will new primary legislation be sought? As I said before, it seems to be a wide power. Assuming, as I hope and expect, that the Minister is able to reassure, can he give some indication of what sort of information public authorities will glean from tax forms? For example, I would be a little concerned about tiers of information on profitability being made public.

Finally, I come back to the linked issue of confidentiality of disclosure and the risks of that—whether in London, Edinburgh or elsewhere—in relation to the new export information that will be sought, and the information on imports, border security and transport flow, referred to in the following clause. Such information can be disclosed only with the agreement of HMRC, under the terms of the Bill. I very much took the Minister’s point last time that the devolved Governments take their responsibilities seriously, and I hope that experience justifies the Minister’s confidence on that. However, once information has been provided to any of our public authorities, can not a decision by Ministers, or a freedom of information request, reveal which companies or sole traders are exporting or importing, or give details of where and what, from which others can draw conclusions? I hope not, as this would be damaging to UK competitiveness, and could be used by foreign interests to gain an advantage at this critical time for UK plc. The Data Protection Act is useful but any further reassurance the Minister can give to our businesses and sole traders would be much appreciated.

My Lords, I welcome this group of amendments. I pay tribute to my noble friend and his colleagues, who have successfully engaged the legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament. I say that as someone of Scottish descent, and a non-practising member of the Faculty of Advocates.

I honestly do not believe that we would have got to this pass if it had not been for the intervention of a number of noble Lords, but especially the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, among others, who intervened at all stages of what is now the United Kingdom Internal Market Act. I hope my noble friend will join me in paying tribute to the ongoing discussions on the framework agreements between the four nations that will be increasingly important as we develop trade, agriculture and environmental policy. But I am sure that there was more than a minor hiccup in engaging with the Scottish Parliament, so I congratulate him and I welcome these amendments in bringing us to that pass. Although he describes them as technical and not significant, I think they are a major step along the path to securing the passing of the Bill as it proceeds to the Commons.

Following two previous attempts spread over years, the Trade Bill seems finally to be making its way towards the statute book, perhaps by way of ping-pong. These amendments were described by the Minister as essentially technical housekeeping. I agree with him and certainly with the amendments, but perhaps it is appropriate that the final amendments we will discuss focus on inserting the Bill into the devolution settlement, as symbolised by the Scotland Act.

As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, the Trade Bill is about setting Westminster’s role for the future, just as the internal market Bill did. I am pleased to hear about the legislative consent from Scotland and Wales, but in the past months these Benches have shown that we disagree with the way the Bill has avoided the effective involvement of Parliaments and Assemblies in the United Kingdom, taking a lot of power for the Executive.

But we have had those debates, and I will use this time to focus on some elements of the application the Trade Bill might enjoy. It is worth pointing out that the UK will be embarking on this so-called independent trade policy when the global trading environment is—how should I put it?—challenging. Even before the massive uncertainty of the global pandemic there were increasing trade tensions and a slowdown in the global economy.

Yet when I listen to the words coming from government mouths, I often hear echoes of British exceptionalism. Phrases such as “sovereign island nation”, when trotted out, seem to hark back to the 19th century. It is this backward view of the world that most disturbs me. I hear overtones that reflect the use of trade deals in a way that European nations did to compete for imperial domination in the 1800s.

At the heart of this is a total lack of understanding of the nature of modern global supply chains. Despite ministerial remonstrations when debating the Bill, it is impossible for me not to take the recent deals as examples of trade policy and how they are being applied. Of course, we could look at the rollover deals, but none of these has delivered anything material that we did not have before, so there is not much material there.

Then we come to the EU and UK deal. Clearly, there are substantial changes here that point to the direction we are travelling in. It is hard. It demonstrates this lack of understanding of how the flow of goods and services is facilitated by supply chains. Such flows are no longer maintained by access to the clipper ships of the East India Company, as this nostalgia seems to reflect, but nurtured by standards, people and data—three areas the EU trade agreement fails to enhance.

The role of shared standards and regulations is becoming only too apparent to our exporters struggling with serious border friction. Meanwhile, the lubricating effect to trade of mobility frameworks and mutual recognition of skills has yet to impinge on the wider public. However, I believe the tone of the Government’s responses to amendments addressing these issues will ultimately be seen as foolish. Finally, there has been no progress on data flows. That problem has just started.

Christmas Eve was not the end of this story; it was one step in a long process of negotiation. There will be protracted and difficult discussions about implementing the provisions covering trade in goods. We are starting to see this. Then there are two key areas outstanding. The first is financial services. Talks on an equivalence deal are taking place over the next three months, but this will exclude core banking services such as lending, payments and deposit-taking. If the EU and the UK fail to secure agreement, the UK will be left with the task of negotiating separately with 27 member states.

Then, as I said, there is data adequacy. The EU Parliament has severe reservations regarding sharing data with the UK. There is great suspicion over the potential onward transfer of data to the USA. Overcoming these fears will require much more than the Prime Minister looking into the eyes of MEPs and saying, “Trust me”.

However these go, the EU and the UK will remain in low-level dispute on all sorts of issues far into the future. Through all this, the UK will have to calculate the impact of whatever is agreed with the EU on its efforts to conclude bilateral trade agreements with other countries.

I question how the Government will use the much-vaunted freedom that they and the Prime Minister parade. As my noble friend Lord Purvis indicated, the UK Government are already looking for opportunities to diverge from the EU to demonstrate the symbolic value of Brexit and perhaps to pursue what they see as an advantage. Yet each change, each extra difference adds new friction to the EU-UK trade border. For every action there stands a possible reaction and a cost. We will see as time goes on whether the UK trade machine has the depth and sophistication to walk these lines. The weekend leaks on the working time directive and the Chancellor’s “big bang 2” speech seem to indicate otherwise.

The Bill sets a framework for trade. The Executive have taken upon themselves such powers that they will have no one else to blame for the results.

My Lords, these are minor and technical amendments. Agreeing to them should pose no difficulty to us. In introducing them the Minister spoke very warmly about his commitment to working with the devolved Administrations. It is very good to hear that two of the three have now passed their required legislative consent Motions. It is a pity that Northern Ireland simply was not able to do so, but it does speak to progress.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made a good point about the need to keep an eye on the ball here, because these issues go far wider than just the trade debate. They certainly came up on the internal market Act, but they go further than that as well. We need to be sure that those who work and operate outside central London feel confident that the responsibilities available and open to them to achieve what they want for their communities will not be obstructed by any centralising force in government. This will come out of this Bill, but it also needs to be taken account of much more widely.

I look forward to the Minister’s response to the points that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, made on the TAC. This body is still shrouded in a certain amount of mystery. Maybe we can reach some further development on that with Amendment 1, which we discussed earlier, but we still need to spend some time talking about how we might take forward the issues that remain unresolved as the Bill goes from here to the Commons.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, was extremely agile in finding a way to bring back an issue she had raised previously. I respect her ability to do that. I also look forward to the Minister’s response. There seem to be two big issues here. There is the question about how the trade information will be gathered: will it be tick-box, voluntary or otherwise? If it is voluntary and tick-box, why is it necessary to use such an extraordinary amount of legislative time, and in particular the Henry VIII power in the Bill? The legislation seems to require only a very minor change to encourage people to register their interests in exports. If that is the case, why on earth does the Minister need to take powers that might change primary legislation? I look forward to his full response to that.

The noble Baroness also raised confidentiality, which I know she feels very strongly about. It can perhaps be dealt with without too much consideration, because it seems obvious, but it could bear further examination. Perhaps further discussions can take place, if not today, on what is happening with the information that has been gathered.

We have no objection on the narrow point of the government amendments before us. I am sure that they will pass.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate, and I am very grateful for their kind words about those who have worked so hard on this Bill. I will come back to this during my Third Reading speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, was characteristically eloquent, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, was characteristically practical. I have carefully noted their comments. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, asked about the reports that would be made in relation to matters in this Bill under the Agriculture Act. To clarify, there are effectively two reports. The statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission must make a report, which will be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State too must lay a report according to the provisions of the Act. His or her report will of course be informed by the report of the statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission, but will also draw on expertise from other sources; for example, there will be a requirement to report on the impact of matters covered by the report on human health.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe raised a few specific points which I will briefly reassure her on. Like her, speaking from the viewpoint of practical businesspeople, I abhor red tape and can confirm that we have no intention of adding to the mountain of it that already exists. I can give my noble friend a complete reassurance that the question on the tax form will absolutely be a simple and voluntary tick box, asking “Do you export goods or services?” Companies will not be required to provide a breakdown of customs headings and literally no other information will be sought other than that tick. I can also confirm that the Government have done an impact assessment on the entire Bill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was agreed that this additional question on the corporation tax form—or, where appropriate, the self-assessment form—was regarded as a minimum burden on business. If there was a word that meant “smaller than minimum”, it could have been used. I also reassure my noble friend that the Henry VIII power will be used only to place the necessary question into the tax form.

Finally, I can provide a complete assurance that commercially sensitive record-level data collected by HMRC on exporters and others would be exempt from a freedom of information request. Responses to such requests must not disclose information that is in breach of other law. In this case, sharing disclosive information about businesses or people collected by HMRC would be in contravention of the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs Act 2005 and the Data Protection Act 2018, and of course there are penalties for so doing. I hope that my words provide complete reassurance to my noble friend.

This has been a short but useful debate, and I would be grateful for the support of the House in making these minor and technical amendments.

Amendment 2 agreed.

Amendments 3 to 13

Moved by

3: Schedule 3, page 25, line 23, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

4: Schedule 3, page 25, line 24, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

5: Schedule 3, page 25, line 25, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Scotland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

6: Schedule 3, page 25, line 28, after “(8A)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

7: Schedule 3, page 25, line 28, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

8: Schedule 3, page 25, line 29, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

9: Schedule 3, page 25, line 30, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

10: Schedule 3, page 25, line 33, after “(4)(b)” insert “(as amended by the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

11: Schedule 3, page 25, line 33, leave out “(ii)” and insert “(iii)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

12: Schedule 3, page 25, line 34, leave out “(iii)” and insert “(iv)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

13: Schedule 3, page 25, line 35, leave out “(iv)” and insert “(v)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of four Government drafting amendments to correct the place at which a provision is inserted into the Northern Ireland Act 1998, in consequence of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 inserting an equivalent provision.

Amendments 3 to 13 agreed.


Moved by

My Lords, as we come to the end of the legislative process for the Bill in this House, I will say a few words to express my sincere gratitude to those who have made its progress possible, starting with my noble friend Lord Younger, whose support throughout this process has been invaluable, especially to a rookie Minister such as myself. I am hugely in his debt. He has shown me the ropes, he has been a deep well of knowledge on parliamentary process and he has stepped up time and again during the debates.

I also thank my predecessor in this role, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, who laid the groundwork in so many ways and whose prior work undoubtedly made the passage of this Bill so much smoother. Any credit for this Bill should surely start with her. I pay particular respect to the noble Lords who have taken their time to meet with me, virtually, to listen to me and to advocate for their issues, and particularly thank the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I also thank my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, Lady Noakes and Lord Lansley.

I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kidron, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Berkeley, for their expertise and relentless advocacy of important issues that often get subsumed in the wider debate. There is one notable addition to the names I have just mentioned. My predecessor, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, singled out the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his contributions in the 2017-19 Bill, and I do the same. Without his forthright counsel, his expertise and his patience, the Bill would not be where it is today.

But this has been very much a team performance. Behind the scenes, civil servants have put in an unbelievable job of work. My thanks go to them, to my private office—in particular, my private secretary Donald Selmani—and to those in the Department for International Trade and across Government who have helped get the Bill to this point. With permission, I will specifically mention the Bill team, whose support has been invaluable not only to myself but to many Members of our House, beginning with the previous Bill manager, Gail Davis, who has expertly guided this Bill and who will now enjoy a well-earned retirement after a distinguished career in the Civil Service. I also pay tribute to the other members of the Bill team, past and present. James Copeland, the current Bill manager, has been on this legislation since day one. I suspect that he is almost as hopeful as noble Lords of getting it on the statute book. I should also mention members of his team: Alistair Ford, Oscar Burbidge, Ross Holton and Thomas Bingham. Finally, I thank the parliamentary staff, the doorkeepers and the clerks, for their patience and professionalism, and I know that I speak for the whole House when I thank all those who have helped make the hybrid process a success during the time of this dreadful pandemic.

This has been my first experience of taking a major and substantive Bill through the House and I do believe that the legislation, after the hard work that Peers have put into it, will be a credit to all Members of this House and the other place and will have a significant positive impact on the citizens and businesses of this great country.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very graceful and elegant introduction of this brief part of the Bill. Votes of thanks are very difficult to do, whether in the Chamber, as they were here, remotely or as part of a more social gathering. It is very difficult to get them right, but I think everyone would agree that this was very nicely done.

The Minister is a relative newcomer to our work, although he has got into the groove very quickly and been able to manage it very successfully. Of course, he has a secret: he started his career in the Civil Service. Therefore, it is to be expected that members of the Bill team have welcomed him back, as it were, and have supported him in a way that has allowed him to do his job with a great level of skill.

I often think that Bills passing through your Lordships’ House acquire a character of their own. This Bill might be described in a number of ways. “Groundhog Day” would be most people’s choice, but that would involve a daily repetition whereas this Bill has been with us only twice. I say “only”, but each time it has repeated much of the stuff that we have dealt with before. The first time it went through with the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, and it was very different because of changed circumstances.

However, that comparison perhaps does not work quite so well, so I suggest that we are talking about a version of “Hamlet”. Parts of this Trade Bill are perhaps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: they, too, are involved in events often happening just outside their understanding and make all-too-infrequent appearances before escorting Hamlet to England and an untimely offstage death—such a waste of such wonderful characters. I will leave others to speculate who played the other parts. I certainly have in mind characters who might be accused of playing Polonius and others who might have played the Player King.

Of course, having the Bill twice, as we have had, may bring other benefits. One suspects that there are probably several PhDs and books to be written about how different approaches were taken over the two cycles of the Bill, the changes in Ministers, the impact of the changes in the political environment and even the change from real to virtual debate, which was mentioned by the Minister, which will have had an impact. I think it might be interesting see them in a few years’ time.

However, we need to focus on where we go next with the Bill. The Government have achieved their target of getting it through all its stages in your Lordships’ House, but it is not finished. In 2019, the then Minister kindly acknowledged that she felt the Bill had been “improved” by its passage through your Lordships’ House. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, also implied that, although he did not quite say so in the same words, but I thank him for his thanks to us and the others who have contributed to the Bill.

I am sure that I speak for all those involved in the Bill, indeed, for the whole House, when I say that this is, amazingly, the first Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has done, and he has done so with extraordinary skill. The idea that only a few months ago he made his maiden speech at Second Reading of the Bill means that we have to look in a new light at his ability to catch up and work forward. He has been very good at organising meetings and providing the information we wanted. Indeed, at one point I had to remonstrate with him about his propensity to email me and colleagues at all hours of the day and night and at weekends. Enough is enough, I think—although he did not seem to take the message.

The noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, whom the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, mentioned in his speech, supported him very well and showed his usual charm and courtesy at the Dispatch Box. The Bill team, which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, was exemplary. We have had a very good service from them and I thank them very much for that. He also mentioned the debt of gratitude we owe to the broadcasting hub and to the staff of the House for making it possible to deliver the Bill at all. My struggles today have been a good example of that. I have been able to communicate at very short notice in a way that I did not think was possible when the internet went down a couple of hours ago.

Outside the House, we have been assisted by the Greener UK alliance and the Trade Justice Movement, in particular. Over the period that we have been involved in the Bill, it has been interesting to see how external groups and civic society have become more interested in trade policy. This is a good thing, given that it is crucial to us as a nation going forward. That is something we want to build on and have endure.

I have been supported in this phase of the Bill by my noble friends Lord Grantchester, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Lennie, our Whip, who have coped very well with me in my “Hamlet” mode. Dan Harris, our legislative assistant, has also been absolutely brilliant and has supported the whole enterprise, even sacrificing his birthday celebrations on one occasion to make sure that papers were made ready and got out. His negotiations with the Public Bill Office have been a joy because I have not had to do them.

We have made a number of changes to the Bill which we hope will be considered sympathetically by the other place tomorrow. I say again to the Minister that we are not far apart on many of these issues, and it would be good to meet him in the interim to see whether there is further common ground to be hammered out.

It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, in his literary thanks to the Minister. I cannot compete with that. I am from the Walter Scott area rather than Shakespeare country, but I am certain that, during the three-and-a-quarter years of the passage of the Bill, the Minister and Ministers probably felt that many of our amendments and much of what we were saying were “Much Ado About Nothing”, much as we thought that the Government were probably acting as a “Comedy of Errors”. But the Minister will now probably think that “All’s Well That Ends Well” with the passage of the Bill, and I congratulate him on putting this legislation on the statute book.

In response to his maiden speech, I indicated that it was the third time that the Bill had been presented to the House and that I was certain that it would be third time lucky for him, and it has been. However, I do not think there has been much luck associated with the Bill. I congratulate him on taking it through in a conscientious, gracious and inclusive manner. All those qualities were indicated in his first correspondence with me when he became a Minister when he set out how he wished to operate. He has demonstrated that to the letter, and I am very grateful, as are my noble friends Lord Fox, Lady Kramer, Lady Bowles, Lord Bruce, Lady Bakewell and others on these Benches who have been able to benefit from the Minister’s time and the manner in which he has listened our concerns and thoughts and responded in a timely manner. In that, he has been very ably assisted by his private office, which I also commend, as well as the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, who has been an extremely patient Whip on the Bench on many of these proceedings.

I had a look at the Parliament web page for the Bill. One of the signs of how conscientious Ministers are is what the website terms “Will write letters”. The noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has written 23 letters during the passage of the Bill through the Lords, which demonstrates two things: first, that across all the Benches there has been great interest in trade policy in a post-Brexit scenario; and, secondly, that he has tried to respond to all the points that have been raised. For the record, I say that not all the 23 will-write letters were to me, but I am sure that the Minister probably felt at certain stages that the contributions from me and these Benches were perhaps excessive. My colleagues and I care very deeply about having a 21st century trade policy to meet the needs of the 21st century. During ping-pong, we will endeavour to continue to make the case.

The Minister said that he commends those on the other Benches on getting the Bill to where it is today. I hope he does not mind me saying that if the Bill becomes an Act as it is today we would be very happy, but we are not yet at the very final stage—like some of the trade agreements that have not yet been ratified after the end of the transition period, this involves a degree of provisional application. I hope the House of Commons will see the sense in the cross-party amendments that this House has passed so that the Bill as it is today will continue to be strong.

I will say one final thing about the Minister. I commend him on putting through this legislation while also having significant health problems with his eye. I have never known a Minister who has seamlessly managed to have major eye surgery—and we commend the NHS and Moorfields Eye Hospital on restoring his eyesight—while taking this legislation through without pause. No one would have noticed any difference, so I commend him on doing it.

I hope that, during ping-pong, we will be able to protect some of the elements of the amendments that we passed during the scrutiny, which I think most colleagues consider to have been thorough, conscientious and effective.

My Lords, as we near the end of lengthy deliberations over a long period, during which we have finally managed to leave the European Union, and now have to start to combat, economically, the greatest worldwide pandemic in many centuries—I do not think that is an exaggeration—I want to make a short contribution imploring the Government not to follow a tendency inbuilt in all Governments. When legislation has taken so long to put together and eventually receives Royal Assent, I implore them not to sit back and leave others to do the next stage. We in this country are good at appointing trade envoys to go out across the world but we are not nearly as good at taking the message inwards. If one thing strikes me more than anything else about what is needed with the freedoms that come from leaving the European Union and the complexities of recovering, at some stage, the economy post the Covid pandemic, it is that we will need to engender two things that will not come automatically.

The first is an entrepreneurial spirit. It is easy for politicians to talk about that but, when industrialists, business people and workers have been anchored down for so long with the pandemic and will continue to be in some way for some considerable time, entrepreneurship will not simply emerge quickly from nowhere; it will need encouraging, facilitating and inspiring.

The second thing, as part of that, will be the need for a new social contract, to use an old term in a modern setting, post Brexit. If those who own and work in our businesses are not on the same wavelength, with the same motivations and moving in the same direction, that entrepreneurship will be severely hampered. The innovations will be concepts rather than delivered goods and services that boost our economy. The Government need to decide whether we will be an economy that trades cheap and cheerful or as the best in the world. That choice will be made in the next 18 months and will last for many years to come.

I implore the Government to go inward into our industrial heartlands of the past, taking the message of this Trade Bill about what trade means and re-establishing that social contract—the message that we are all in this together. The UK, with its new freedoms, will prosper and thrive if we do so on the basis of being the best, rather than the cheap and cheerful back end of the industrial world, I hope that Ministers from this department will take the lead in doing that.

My Lords, I pay fulsome tribute to my noble friends Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Younger of Leckie for their stewardship of the Bill, bringing us to where we are today. I join my noble friends in also paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Fairhead for originating the original Bill, to which I also contributed.

My noble friend has alluded to all those who contributed, and I join him in thanking all the officials who have helped us—notably, his private secretary and the Bill team. I also thank the doorkeepers, the attendants and those in the Printed Paper Office and the Public Bill Office, who have worked exceptionally hard on the Bill. I thank, too, the catering staff, who have ensured that, while we have been meeting in this House, we have been well fed and watered.

My noble friend alluded to the fact that the Bill has changed during its passage in this House before it proceeds to the ping-pong stage. I echo the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, that the food standards agencies of the four nations will be asked to advise on human health. There is a concern over how they will report on and feed the human health aspects into the other two reports to which my noble friend referred.

I also extend warm thanks to the Law Society of Scotland, which briefed me at various stages of the Bill to ensure that Scottish concerns—particularly those of the legal profession in Scotland—were heeded.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred to “Hamlet”. Obviously that was set in Denmark, with the Prince of Denmark being the main player. I end by thanking my noble friend Lord Grimstone, who has emerged as the swan, with the rest of us being the ugly ducklings. He has had an aura of calm at every stage of the Bill, and I am sure that he has been serenely paddling underneath. I thank him and congratulate him and other noble friends on getting the Bill to this stage today. I look forward to the ping-pong stage to see how the unfinished business, particularly relating to the CRaG procedures and the other domestic legislation and the regulations they put in place, plays out.

My Lords, on behalf of myself and everybody else referred to, I thank noble Lords for their most generous comments. I constantly stand in awe of the expertise in our House and the courtesies with which views are expressed. With a sense of relief, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.