Skip to main content

Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 14 March 2023


Clause 1: Power to implement government procurement Chapters

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 15, at end insert—

“(3A) Regulations under subsection (1) may not be made before completion of a review by the Trade and Agriculture Commission of the potential impact of the procurement Chapters on industry in the United Kingdom.”Member’s explanatory statement

Requires a review by the TAC before regulations implementing the procurement Chapters can be made.

My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, Amendments 1 and 6. I was thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, would be here, but maybe the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will cover for him in his absence—he may arrive while I am speaking, who knows?

I begin by thanking the Minister both for being available between Committee and Report and for facilitating a meeting with Mr Phil Goff, the New Zealand high commissioner in the UK earlier in the Bill’s passage; both were very helpful indeed. Amendment 1 would require a review by the Trade and Agriculture Commission, the TAC, before regulations implementing the procurement chapters can be made. The TAC, as we know, is the independent committee of expert specialists in a number of fields—animal and plant health; animal welfare; environmental standards and so on. Its role is to scrutinise a new free trade agreement once it is signed and to inform Parliament whether measures in the new free trade agreement are consistent with UK levels of statutory protection. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has arrived.

Last year, the then Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, received confirmation that the Australia and New Zealand trade deals were indeed within that consistency, so one might wonder why we are putting down this amendment. It is not to score political points, or to attack the Government, but to ask TAC to consider the procurement chapters of these two free trade agreements. The TAC would need to be fine-tuned to do this by importing necessary expertise. In Committee in the other place, representatives of TAC agreed that it is only as strong or as weak as the parliamentary scrutiny process around it. We can see no reason to limit it to the agricultural aspects of agreements and not to extend TAC to look at procurement as well. Incidentally, it is regrettable that TAC’s role is limited to post the signing of deals, but that is not the concern of this amendment.

Amendment 6 would require an impact assessment of regulations made under Schedule 1 within 12 months, and every three years thereafter. These trade deals are not short-term, one-off deals: while predictions can be made in advance, they are generally vague or broad and wide of the mark, so impact assessments would consider what the actual situation is after time has passed, to better inform the future, and on a rolling basis. This would provide insight into the effect of these deals and help us learn lessons for the future. Whether the Government like it or not—I think they do not like it—these agreements set precedents for future trade deals. A number of concerns have been raised about these deals and it would be sensible to keep them under formal review and readjust expectations as we gain more knowledge. For example, on employment rights, the TUC has commented that the agreements do not contain commitments to ILO core conventions, and an obligation for both parties to ratify and respect those agreements.

On climate change, it is deeply concerning that vital commitments made to this House on climate change in regard to the Australian deal are not being upheld. Alok Sharma MP, COP 26 president, said on 1 December 2021, that the Australia deal

“reaffirms both parties’ commitments to upholding our obligations under the Paris agreement, including limiting global warming to 1.5°.”—[Official Report, Commons, 1/12/21; col. 903]

This final agreement does not uphold that important commitment. In other areas too—the NHS, small businesses, regions and particularly animal welfare, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, will speak about in a minute—there are further problems. So, an impact assessment set against these concerns would be very helpful to assess the deals and prepare the UK for future negotiations. I beg to move.

I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, and I shall speak to Amendment 3 in my name. I congratulate my noble friend the Minister for the close interest he has taken in listening to my concerns—most recently in a phone call on Sunday evening. I apologise for intruding on his weekend.

My concerns in the background, and my reason for tabling Amendment 3 at this stage, are twofold. One, as the noble Lord opposite alluded to, is the need for an impact assessment, particularly looking at the impact of implementing the procurement chapters of these free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand. What will the impact be on farmers, and indeed on the market for food within the United Kingdom, particularly in relation to lamb and beef? Secondly, in relation to the impact on the market for food, the impact assessment I am calling for must consider the production and food safety standards.

I am trying to impress upon my noble friend and the Government the plight of upland hill farmers, many of whom are tenanted farmers. I am most familiar with those based in North Yorkshire, where I had the honour to represent two different constituencies for a total of 18 years; I grew up in the Pennines in County Durham. Peculiar to those areas of the north of England is that perhaps 50% of the farms are tenanted. They also have very poor land but it does lend itself to grazing, and over the years they have done this extremely well. Therefore, they have thrived through our membership of the European Union and, most recently, the Basic Payment Scheme, through spring lambs and fat-store cattle.

I was particularly concerned to see in an article dated 5 March that it is estimated that in this financial year alone, the typical grazing livestock farm in the English uplands faces a drop in farm business net profit income of almost two thirds, to approximately £16,300. I would like to pay tribute to the work of Julia Aglionby, professor of practice at the University of Cumbria’s Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas. She predicts that the income will recover slightly to almost £23,000 over two years, before slumping back to £16,700. The ballpark figure is going to be between £16,300 and £16,700.

On that basis, the NFU fears that it is not going to be cost effective, as we move from the Basic Payment Scheme to payments for environmental and public goods, for farmers to farm in the uplands, certainly in the north of England, with which I am most familiar. So, they face a drop in farm income. Coupled with that is what I see as unfair competition and the lack of a level playing field. My noble friend Lord Inglewood will remember from our days in the European Parliament this elusive level playing field that we thought we would obtain at some stage in the European Union; it never happened, but I see it becoming more and more elusive as we go forward.

So, the purpose of this amendment is to look at how we can ensure, through proposed new subsection (2) of Amendment 3, that our standards of food production and safety will be met going forward. The NFU is concerned that there are no enduring safeguard mechanisms —that the mechanisms in place are for up to a maximum of 15 years.

I would like my noble friend the Minister to acknowledge when he sums up that, in its impact assessments for the two agreements, the Department for Business and Trade has modelled agriculture, forestry, fishing and semi-processed foods, which include the beef and sheep meat sectors, and these are estimated to see a fall of 0.35% in one agreement, and a minus 1.16% reduction in gross value added, respectively, relative to the base line, over the long run as a result of the FTA. We have to accept that some farmers will take the view that we are doing a deal with the devil.

Australia and New Zealand are very good producers of food. They have large tracts of land on which to produce their food, and they are going to come after our markets very aggressively. Regarding my noble friend’s department’s impact assessment, I accept there may be other areas under these agreements that may benefit, such as automobiles and whisky—which is close to my heart, coming as I do from Scotland—but I am here to argue for the plight of the hill farmer and the upland farmer, who are feeling very beleaguered as we speak.

Another source of concern that I hope my noble friend will address is how these imports are going to meet my test under proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 3. I have had a note from the Food Standards Agency concerning the percentage of food coming into the UK from third countries, including EU countries, as “checked at port or point of entry”. As we will recall, imports from the EU, which may include Brazilian, Australian and New Zealand imports, have been temporarily suspended at our borders; I think they are due to be phased in toward the end of this year. But imports from Australia and New Zealand through the EU are not being checked at our borders at the moment.

What is concerning me more is that all imported high-risk food and feed from non-EU countries is subject to control at our borders. This includes 100% documentary checks to ensure that the consignment originates from both a country and establishments that are approved to export to this country, and food and feed safety assurances contained with the Export Health Certificate have been correctly completed, meeting our safety requirements. Additional identity and physical checks will be carried out, and the frequency of such checks vary between—if the figures are correct—1% and 30%.

The FSA says that typically, meat and dairy products fall into the 30% frequency, while fish and fish products fall into the 15% frequency, and highly refined products of animal origin fall into the 1% frequency. Lamb and beef fall within the 30% checks, so we are taking an awful lot on trust at our borders from non-EU countries —an example being Australian and New Zealand meat imports—under the terms of a free trade agreement.

The final thought I would like to leave my noble friend with is that the checks undertaken by local authorities in England are a sort of last-chance saloon; at the moment they are patchy, and I hope that enough resources will be made available to them. Those are my main concerns. This is yet another agreement which is asymmetrical in nature, and we are doing a deal which is going to be far more in the interests of Australian and New Zealand farmers than our own. Unlike other free trade agreements, it does not allow for a safeguard measure, so it is putting our own producers of meat, particularly lamb and beef, at risk. It also lays us open, both as domestic producers and consumers, to substandard foods coming in.

Those are the concerns that lie behind Amendment 3, and I very much look forward to hearing some reassurance from my noble friend when he comes to respond.

My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendments 4 and 5, in the name of my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed, to which I have added my name. It is clear that the Government are extremely keen to foster trade deals with any number of non-EU countries. It is also clear that this could be very beneficial to our British farmers if they are able to export their excellent world-class produce to new markets—provided that they are not bogged down with unnecessary and exhaustive paperwork.

However, Australian and New Zealand exporters will in fact gain far more than our UK counterparts. The main tariff reductions are on the UK side. Trade with the UK is likely to be a very small proportion of Australia and New Zealand’s trade; they have other trading nations much closer to their shores. Their animal welfare standards are not as high as those in the UK, and there are no safeguards against Australian imports after 15 years—sugar after eight years, and dairy after six years. Even the previous Secretary of State admitted that the current deal sold UK farmers short.

Regarding tariff quotas, in year 1 Australia will access 35,000 tonnes of beef quota with no duty. This is an estimated 10% of the UK’s total import requirements. This will rise to 30% of total import requirements by year 10, which will be more than 12% of total UK production. It appears that the Government’s aim is to reduce the profitability and viability of our beef farmers, who produce some of the very best beef in the world.

The Government have agreed to eliminate tariffs on New Zealand imports, although some products will be subject to phasing out. However, New Zealand lamb will be imported with no tariff at all after 15 years. Our hill farmers across the country, including those producing excellent Welsh lamb, feel that they are being undercut. This is already an area of agriculture that does not produce large rewards for farmers.

Amendment 4 would ensure that impact assessments are carried out for all types of farmers, especially upland, tenant and family farmers. It will be not the large conglomerate farmers who suffer from imports of cheaper, poorer-quality produce but the much smaller farmer, who is currently surviving on the edge of viability but who works disturbingly long hours, seven days a week.

The Government have pushed this and other trade deals with insufficient thought for the effects on our farmers. Amendment 4 would ensure that impact assessments are carried out on a regular basis. These impact assessments will be essential when the Government come to negotiate further trade deals with Canada and Mexico—a very different prospect from far-away Australia and New Zealand.

Amendment 5 would ensure that impact assessments for environmental standards, food standards, animal welfare standards and biodiversity are carried out and published regularly. Ensuring that these four key themes, featured in both the Environment Act and the Agriculture Act, are enshrined in the Bill is absolutely crucial.

Minette Batters, the president of the NFU, finished her speech to the recent NFU conference with a number of issues that she wanted the Government to address, including committing to promoting domestic food production, putting farmers and growers at the heart of our trade policy, guaranteeing our food security and backing British farmers and British food. It is time for the Government to do just this and add these amendments to the Bill to show that they do indeed support British farmers.

My Lords, I will intervene briefly. We had a substantial debate in Committee on precisely these issues and I will not repeat the remarks I made then. I remind the House that my sister-in-law is a sheep and beef farmer in north Wales.

For these purposes, I draw attention to the fact that each of these amendments refers to the impact of the procurement chapters—on industry in Amendment 1, on farmers in Amendment 3, and so on. This allows the amendments to come within the Bill’s scope, because the Bill is about only the procurement chapters of the two trade agreements. But because the amendments are within scope and relate only to the procurement chapters, they essentially are pointless, since they do not allow for an impact assessment of the impact on farming; as far as I can tell, the procurement chapters do not impact on farming.

I looked at those chapters; I was a member of the International Agreements Committee, which looked carefully at these two agreements and reported to the House on them. Where New Zealand is concerned, the benefit of the procurement chapter in the short run is modest and principally relates to housing and access to procurement of national parks in New Zealand. Where Australia is concerned, the agreement essentially enables us to access procurements at a sub-federal level, but given the thresholds I am unaware of any likelihood of any significant impact on UK agricultural exports to Australia or vice versa, since these are not necessarily public procurements. The question is whether farmers and agricultural produce from Australia and New Zealand have access to the UK market more generally. All these amendments are pointless in this context since they relate only to the procurement chapters.

I hope we get on with this. When we last spoke, I said that I hoped we might have completed the passage of the Bill by early March. The whole point of the Bill is to enable these chapters to be brought into our domestic legislation and to allow the free trade agreements to be ratified and brought fully into force. I had hoped that we would have done it earlier than this, but thus far we have not.

I have one point on impact assessments, since the purpose is to try to get impact assessments. I still do not understand why those who are asking for these assessments to be made have not recognised that the Trade and Agriculture Commission produced reports last year on each of these free trade agreements. The International Agreements Committee and the International Trade Committee in the other place had commitments from Ministers that there would be a monitoring report every two years and a comprehensive evaluation of the free trade agreement after five years. That seems a perfectly reasonable proposition, so I cannot see that these amendments have either procedural or substantial merit.

My Lords, I think your Lordships must agree that I am a very fortunate Member of your Lordships’ House, because with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, everyone has been speaking on my account as a Cumbrian hill farmer. I should declare that interest, and that I am president of the National Sheep Association and of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association.

The fundamental concern of agriculture about this seems to go back to the fact that when you have a carcass it is not really very clear whether it has been nurtured under benign environmental conditions or malignant ones. Equally, you cannot necessarily tell very easily, because of complicated scientific aspects that I had explained to me but do not entirely understand, whether it has had hormones introduced into it, and so on and so forth.

As I understand the law, under the international agreements, lamb in particular and beef from the two countries that we are talking about can be imported into our country. The legal impediment rests not there but with the fact that we are, under the WTO rules, allowed under certain circumstances to use welfare and environmental standards, as part of our domestic consumer protection legislation, to prohibit such products being placed on the market.

Against that background, what is needed in the context of the wider concerns that we have been touching on seems to be some kind of mechanism so that the British consumer and the British farmer know whether carcasses that might come into this country actually adhere to the appropriate standards. Speaking for myself as a Cumbrian hill farmer, I have no problems about competing with animals that have been reared in accordance with the standards that apply here. My worry is that you might in theory be undercut by products that come in from outside that do not adhere to those standards, for the simple reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, gave about the level playing field. The difficulty in theory is establishing whether that is the case.

Therefore, the question I put to the Minister—if he cannot answer me now, I ask him to do so by letter—is whether the Australian and New Zealand Governments will have proper farm assurance schemes in place to enable the traceability of the carcasses so that they can be identified. That seems to me, and to a number of other people who have been thinking about this, probably the most effective way of ensuring that this provision is properly adhered to in terms of our own domestic production. That would go a very long way towards allaying a lot of the concerns that have been expressed.

My Lords, I rise briefly to offer general support for the direction of all the amendments in this group. I am sure that the Front-Benchers will have more to say. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, I note that the commitment from the Minister to offer regular impact assessments is not the same as something written into the Bill. The Procurement Bill contains increasing promises from the Government for more local and national public procurement for schools, hospitals, prisons, et cetera. I am not quite sure of the timing or how this interacts with the nature of the procurement in this Bill.

I want to pick up on a point from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. She noted concerns about ongoing negotiations with Canada and Mexico. These amendments can also be taken as a broader expression of concern about the potential impact of opening up our markets to agricultural products from around the world, produced under far worse environmental, animal welfare and public health conditions than the standards we have been used to under EU membership and those of our own producers.

For anyone who has not seen it, there is a very interesting report on Politico reflecting on discussion around the potential CPTPP membership in which Canada is pushing with Mexico to have the same market access for agriculture as Australia and New Zealand have won under their deals with the UK. If we look at Mexico’s production conditions, we see that its beef imports have very high carbon emissions. Canada uses farrowing crates, tail docking, teeth trimming and lots of other practices that we would regard as wholly unacceptable in the pigmeat industry.

These amendments are to be taken together as a real expression of concern about what kind of food we will potentially see on our plates and the environmental impact of the food our farmers will be producing.

My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for missing the first minute of his contribution.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, about why at this stage of the Bill we are seeking to raise some of the concerns that have already been expressed. It is not just we who have been raising issues about these agreements in particular. I can quote from a website that says we know that farmers are concerned by some of the trade deals we have struck, including with Australia:

“A Rishi Sunak-led Government will make farmers a priority in all future trade deals.”

That website is Ready for Rishi. As part of that commitment, he said that as Prime Minister he would introduce a new “Buy Local” campaign. He would also:

“Introduce a new target for public sector organisations to buy 50% of their food locally, to back British farmers and improve sustainability.”

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, raised this in Committee. In discussing procurement, we are justified in trying to find out how that target from the new Prime Minister of 50% of public sector procurement through buying local will be implemented, especially since that same Prime Minister has recognised the concerns about these agreements we are debating.

It is also worth noting that there have been significant concerns among not only farmers in England but those in Scotland, to which I will refer, and Wales. Today’s Order Paper notes that Welsh legislative consent has been withheld. We should take seriously why the Welsh Government and Parliament have not been able to provide legislative consent in these areas. We also know the concerns of the Scottish Government.

Before I progress, I thank the Minister for his proactive engagement. I support his commitment to seeking opportunities to promote British exporters. The level of engagement he has shown to the Front Benches and others is to his credit and that of his office. I appreciate his willingness and engagement. He and others, such as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, are keen to see this agreement put in place. From these Benches, I wish to see agreements where there are opportunities for UK exports, especially in rural procurement. As my noble friend Lady Bakewell has indicated, we will not be shy in raising concerns about what the impacts may be, especially where the Government say when it suits them that these either are gateway agreements for CPTPP or will set precedents. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, about this. It is right that we test the impact on our domestic industries.

Our amendments seek specific reference to the impact on tenant and family farmers in particular, as well as on biodiversity. These are vital issues. The Government’s own impact assessment says that the cumulative effect of the Australia agreement will be a decline of 3% for beef and 5% of sheepmeat as a result of this liberalisation. As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, indicated, this is one-way liberalisation. In many respects, we have already had the market access. The question is: what is the impact on that new market access for those within the UK?

I know that the Minister will probably repeat the reassurances he gave in Committee. I respect him for doing so. I hope he will allow me to give another indication of the significance of this and why we are so concerned. I was in Scotland at the weekend, as I normally am. I was in Dundee, speaking to producers. The impact on energy costs and the shortage of labour, as well as the potential for increased competition—which is not based on a level playing field—in the dairy, egg, chicken, potato and vegetable sectors, were brought home to me. At the moment, many are making very difficult decisions about whether they will be able to carry on with production. It is right to raise these concerns and to link these agreements with the debates we are having on food security and our rural economies. The energy costs and labour shortages in dairy and in lamb and beef production are of significant concern. A much more targeted impact assessment on what are very vulnerable sectors—not simply a review of the agreement overall—is now vital.

It is also relevant to refer to some of the press reporting about South American meat, which has allegedly been put on the UK market labelled as “best British beef”. I understand that a major investigation is under way by the National Food Crime Unit—part of the Food Standards Agency—into what could have been a significant mislabelling of products. Can the Minister comment as to when we may see the conclusion of this investigation? If he cannot say so today, will he write to me? Issues about standards, mislabelling, mis-selling and the impact on our rural economies are not theoretical but real. The fact that there could potentially be hundreds of thousands of products where British consumers thought they were buying British, but that were actually from other sources, is of significant concern.

I respect the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the TAC. In Committee, I said that I had read the report and that I respect the work it does, but I do not think it is fair to say simply that because the TAC has made a report on the agreement, we should not seek further reassurances on the impact. If there are to be means by which we trigger mechanisms in the agreement to protect those sectors which may face unfair competition, we need the evidence base to make that decision. Therefore, seeking an opportunity to raise issues about enforcement of the commitments in the agreement is valid.

Next, I will refer to precedent. On some agreements, the Government say that there is no precedent in any agreement, because each agreement is negotiated afresh. That may be factually the case, but we know, as the noble Baroness indicated, that the Government are negotiating in real time with Mexico and Canada, and we seem to be close to an accession to CPTPP. If other reports are true, we have given considerable concessions on palm oil to Malaysia as part of the CPTPP accession talks. Reports in the Financial Times indicate that we have accepted a demand from Malaysia to cut tariffs on palm oil to zero immediately on accession, whereas the EU has a de facto ban. That will create significant concerns about the UK’s commitments on anti-deforestation and biodiversity. Ultimately, because we have insufficient means to properly scrutinise government negotiating objectives, it is right, even at the late stage of Bills, that we consider them closely.

On CPTPP, the Government have been very clear. The Minister said at Second Reading and in Committee that the Government consider these agreements as a gateway to the accession, so it is right that we link them together. Alan Beattie of the Financial Times highlighted the potential of the CPTPP accession to be just 0.08% of growth in gross domestic product. He says:

“To express economic growth in decibel form, the UK joining the deal in its current form is a cat sneezing three rooms away.”

The Government’s rhetoric on some of these agreements is not matched by reality when we know what the direct impact will be. Even at this late stage, therefore, I hope that the Minister will be able to offer some reassurance to our sector.

Going back for a moment to the point the noble Lord made earlier about the sale of food to public bodies and these procurement chapters, does he recognise that the purchase of food locally by schools, hospitals and the like will almost certainly not be, as I judge it, within the definition of covered procurement and not above the threshold; and, therefore, the procurement chapters, in so far as they extend procurement opportunities to Australia and New Zealand providers under this Bill—and under the Procurement Bill—really would not be relevant to that local provision of food?

I am grateful to the noble Lord; he knows I respect his work on this area very much. I would like the Minister to confirm that that will be the case, because I am not convinced. I see the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, in her place. She was kind enough to have a meeting with me about it. I am not yet convinced, because of the elements within the Procurement Bill which will require there to be no discrimination for any of the treaty countries for public procurement in this country, that what he is arguing for, which is effectively a carve-out, will in fact be the case. My understanding is that under the Procurement Bill, we are unable to discriminate against any of the treaty suppliers. I am not sure that a public body in this country would be able to discriminate. I hope the Minister will be able to clarify that point.

The reason this is relevant and why I quoted the then candidate for leader of the Conservative Party’s commitment to 50% of public procurement in this country being local is that I do not know how that squares with what will be the legal requirement under the Procurement Bill that we are then unable to discriminate against Australian and New Zealand produce which will enter the market. I do not know how that squares.

I am simply asking the questions, because we have not had more meat on the bone, if that is not too inappropriate an analogy, about what has been published as a government commitment and is in the Procurement Bill. If the noble Lord has any other answers, I am happy for him to intervene on me. I do not know how he knows how this might be squared. I do not at this moment. That is why part of our agriculture sector is also questioning how these two commitments will come together. The different sequencing of this Bill and the Procurement Bill is relevant. Because it also sets the precedent for Canada and Mexico, with new produce coming in, and if these are gateway agreements for CPTPP, we are looking at potential competition with all CPTPP members for public procurement of produce. If you are a public body in the UK looking at cost-effective procurement of food for schools or hospitals and you are unable under the Procurement Bill to discriminate against Australian or New Zealand produce or that from any CPTPP country and state that there is local producing, similarly, I do not know that it is matched.

I hope that, at this late stage, the Minister can offer some reassurance. I hope that he is able to explain how these commitments to 50% of procurement can be matched, as well as give further reassurances, specifically on the impact on tenant farmers and biodiversity. There are genuine concerns here, I do not think they will go away and we need to offer that reassurance to these sectors, which are so vital to our rural economy.

My Lords, I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests, although I do not believe there is any conflict relating to our debate today. I am also grateful for the apology of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for being slightly late. I was fractionally late for Questions this afternoon, and was called on to resign, among other things. I hope the House does not mind that I have not taken that too seriously.

I am delighted to be speaking on Report of this very important Bill. If it is appropriate to make a personal comment, I have deeply appreciated the high level of engagement with the Opposition Front Benches, my noble friends and noble Lords across the House. I do not want to put words into people’s mouths, but I think we agree that it is a fundamentally good thing to do a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand. I was watching the news yesterday and seeing the extraordinary advances we have made in collaboration, particularly with Australia, in our defence. It will benefit the economy in many areas in the north-west of this country, among other parts of this nation. The sheer sincerity of the brotherhood between our nations should be expressed very clearly. I very much hope that if the high commissioner of either Australia or New Zealand—I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for engaging with Phil Goff recently—is watching this debate, they know that the fundamental spirit of the House is for a successful conclusion of this process and a good and successful trade deal with Australia and New Zealand.

At the same time, I am very aware of the issues that trade deals create. I am certainly not triumphal in any way about trade liberalisation or the effects that this trade deal will have on individuals and farming communities. I have been very sensitive to those discussions over the past few months and take this very seriously. I express my personal view that we must support our farming community, and this is unquestionably the view of this Government as well. It is important to have that on the record.

I would like to deviate slightly from the prepared text that is often given to Ministers on these occasions and actually try to answer the questions that have been raised, if that is not too procedural. Of the three groups of amendments, this one probably requires the most attention; I hope that the next group can be quite swiftly dealt with and the third relatively quickly as well.

Noble Lords have raised the important points that have come from this debate, and I greatly appreciate my noble friend Lord Lansley’s commentary. This procurement Bill, which I have in my hand, is a very specific and technical Bill, and to attach specific riders to it would not really make sense. If one is looking for assessment of the impact of the Bill on procurement, in the sense of the changing of the thresholds, the advertising and the termination concepts, I cannot really see how we can judge the impact of this specific legislation. That does not change the fact that I am keen to answer the questions and concerns that are raised, because clearly, it is called the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, as a result of which it is absolutely justified to ensure that we assess the specific points that the overall treaty raises. However, when it comes to the technical points in the amendments proposed, it would be unusual and unnecessarily cumbersome to attach any rider to them except for that in Amendment 2, which I will propose myself.

I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for his comments on what the Trade and Agriculture Commission could achieve in terms of further assessment and analysis. The TAC produced a significant and deep report on the proposed ramifications of trade treaties with both Australia and New Zealand. It was valuable in providing this House with the right level of evidence and, in my view—I read it very carefully—a high degree of comfort that the ramifications in many of the areas where there are concerns, such as animal welfare and the derogation of our standards, which has been a matter for debate for some time, would be well managed and contained in a way that should not cause alarm, long-term concern or significant distortion to the markets.

On whether the TAC should consider procurement, I am quite intrigued by that. It is not for me to make pledges at the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has already suggested that such pledges are not worth a great deal—I know one noble Lord may have mentioned that; perhaps it was the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—but still, they are important statements. Even so, it is not for me to make prescriptions as to the direction of the TAC. However, as we evolve our trade plan, it is perfectly reasonable to investigate what additional areas the TAC may look at, although I advise that in this instance the commission should look specifically at the effects of the imports on the farming community. It may be worth looking at how we can assess further procurements. I would be happy to entertain that, if that is the right word.

The core point of these amendments is the impact assessment. We have already done a detailed impact assessment; in fact it has been raised. The very fact that it has demonstrated some long-term or medium-term effects on the farming community in its honesty is to be congratulated. It has allowed us to have a serious debate and to ensure that, when we create these agreements, we build in protections and safeguards, as we have, in order that there can be a steady five, 10 and 15-year transition. When it comes to assessing areas of risk, such as poultry and pork imports, the agreement is very different on that in terms of not liberalising those markets.

We have had the impact assessment, and we will have, after two years, a monitoring report. I have quite a lot of detail here in terms of after five years, which I think is the right time for a full assessment of the effects of these trade deals. That is what we want. The Government want to know what has happened. In our conversation with the New Zealand high commissioner, we learnt that New Zealand expected its deal with China to increase trade for New Zealand by 3 billion dollars a year, and it ended up being 30 billion dollars a year in five years. We are hoping for significant magnitudes of trade between our nations to enrich us. Two years, however, will give us enough time to monitor the activities of the trade deals in the respective countries, and after five years a full report will be presented. I believe that the five-year report will be presented to Parliament; if that is wrong, I will certainly correct that.

On top of that—and we discussed this in the last debate—there are numerous committees and structures within the agreement to make sure that they are functioning according to how we would like them to function. I welcome input from all Members of this House on areas where they think greater scrutiny is required, and where they think there are issues. Clearly, in relation to agriculture, we will have a constant dialogue as we go through the process,

In specific fact, as a legislative Act—I hope noble Lords will forgive me; I am relatively new to this House, so perhaps they can correct me—adding riders to this Bill would seem to be difficult to do in terms of trying to get the outcomes we want. Philosophically in practice, the Government have conducted an impact assessment initially, which I think has been well received and has been extremely valuable in informing this debate. We have committed to a two-year monitoring report—I am very pleased to have discussions on what should be included in that to make it useful—and then there will be a five-year full assessment of the trade deals, as I believe we have committed to for all trade deals going through the House.

Points have been raised by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about the precedent that this trade deal sets. I want to stress—this is extremely important from my point of view—that no single treaty sets a precedent for the next treaty. That is relevant; it is why there are negotiations with Canada, Mexico and the other countries in the CPTPP. Both those countries are in the CPTPP and we are negotiating different things with them while at the same time negotiating on CPTPP—I want to stress that. I can assure noble Lords that as someone who is in the Department for Business and Trade I see—admittedly one step removed from the negotiations—a huge effort to make sure that we get the right deal for this country, that it is measured and appropriate, and that we take the right time to conclude these deals in the best interests of the United Kingdom. They are separate, and I am very happy to have a separate debate, as we will—I hope soon—on the opportunities that will be presented to us by a plethora of other deals, but they will be stand-alone. I would expect the same degree of scrutiny as we have had for these two countries’ trade deals in this Bill.

The issue of animal welfare has been raised. That is extremely relevant and very dear to my heart personally; it is important to people in this country that our values in this area are not diluted in any way. We have done a lot of work to assess the impact on animal welfare. Looking at the TAC report, the impact assessment and other reports, we feel comfortable that animal welfare standards are comparable between Australia and New Zealand and the UK. Before noble Lords intervene—which I discourage, simply for the sake of the speed of the debate—let me say that there are differences in how animal husbandry operates in Australia and New Zealand, and some people might suggest that in some instances it is better in terms of the amount of space that animals have while in others they suggest that is worse. We are aware, clearly—which is not relevant for imports into the UK—of reports over the weekend on the movement of live animals and so on. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to speak to—

I am aware that the Minister suggested that there be no interventions, but I have to say one word: mulesing. That is a dreadful animal welfare issue in Australian sheep farming.

I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. It is not my plan in this debate to be triumphal or to score points or whatever in terms of coming backwards and forwards. I have done a great deal of work in order to satisfy myself that when it comes to mulesing, the reports suggest that a tiny percentage of meats that would appear in this country—I am only going on the reports that I have been given—would be at risk of being from that practice. I have also been encouraged by reports that I have read about changing practices and standards in Australia. In particular, farmers who come under the Australian farm assurance programme certainly insist on anaesthetising before mulesing. I do not want to go down an alleyway, but the point is that great efforts have been made to ensure that, broadly speaking, our standards are aligned.

I have two more important points. The New Zealand Government have introduced a significant upgrade to their animal welfare standards. I cannot recall the name of the Bill, but if noble Lords wish to look, they will see that they are introducing a whole raft of new animal welfare standards and general environmental standards for farming, which will have enormous ramifications for their production and align them even further, if not go even further than we do. I spoke yesterday, specifically ahead of this debate, to the Australian high commissioner and raised this issue again, as I did with the Trade and Agriculture Minister who I met a few months ago. This has been my main issue, particularly when speaking directly to interlocutors about animal welfare standards.

They have confirmed to me that they are doing further work, which is very important. The Government of Australia have announced the banning of other practices, not associated with our exports but relating to live animal exports and so on. The direction of travel is very positive. We have not celebrated enough that our work in negotiating these trade deals has helped to drive up standards in both countries. I applaud our negotiating team for doing that, and applaud the debates that we have, with leadership from individuals such as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, ensuring that these areas are properly highlighted and that we can draw attention to our interlocutors and set standards, and that our negotiating partners know that we have these standards and that we wish to be aligned on them.

I have only a few more points to make. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made some very relevant references to the Food Standards Agency. I wrote to her and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Lennie, covering some of the questions raised in the last debate. This issue was raised. I have interviewed staff there to ensure that they carry out physical checks at the border for Australian and New Zealand products. They do not check every container, and frankly it is quite right that they do not. It would be an extreme impediment to trade, especially for food produce. However, they take a very proactive approach to ensuring that our standards—which, to reinforce the point, are not derogated in any way by these trade Bills—are upheld.

On top of that, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, raised a point about whether we can be comfortable of certification on the ground. In my recent call with the Food Standards Authority, I particularly covered the topic of Australia, which has a local assurance system, as do we. To be eligible to export, a farmer must sign up to the federal export assurance scheme; I cannot recall its name, but your Lordships will know what I mean. Therefore, vets who are under obligation to perform their duties—

The question that follows from the helpful remarks of the Minister is: are the British Government confident and fully in line with what those schemes have to say?

I was just coming to that. I may have taken a bit too long to get there but I am trying to reassure noble Lords by describing in detail the lengthy process of assurance that Australia provides us with. It is part of the global trading system and not necessarily unique to Australia. We must do the same, as I understand. If I am wrong, I will ensure that this is corrected, but we must do the same with any agricultural or meat exports that we send to Australia.

Are we confident that Australia is upholding their system and managing it properly? The answer is yes. I have been impressed with the calls that I have had around this subject. It is a detailed and complicated process of assurance that ensures that we are comfortable that what we receive is indeed what is advertised. I do not want to be called back here if there is a case where that does not happen, because clearly that is not my intention, but on whether we are confident about the processes in place, the short answer is yes.

Regarding South American beef being passed off under British beef titles, I understand that this was only from one retailer, and the National Food Crime Unit is investigating. This struck me as an isolated case. Forgive me that I do not have all the details, but the major supermarket retailers have all denied any knowledge of this and it has not affected them. This is a unique case. I am happy to have someone write to the noble Lord because it would be interesting to find out a bit more about this, but it is not relevant in this instance. It does not seem to be widespread, but is specific. That it has been caught and is being investigated is very important.

I come to a conclusion—

Can the Minister address the commitment that the now Prime Minister made for 50% of public sector procurement to be sourced locally? Is that government policy? How does that interact with the legal requirements in the Procurement Bill that a public body in this country would not be able to choose a local producer over a treaty supplier producer, on that basis?

I appreciate the noble Lord’s comments and was about to come on to that when I said “conclusion”. Sadly, my conclusions can run to several topics, the noble Lord’s being one of them.

It is correct that the procurement legislation prohibits a nationalist tilt towards procurement, which is what we want. When it comes to government procurement, we want the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices, and I would like to think that they will be British products. It will reassure this House to know that 81% of all beef sold in this country is under British brand labels. Only 19% international beef is sold in this country in the first place. The assumption is that you are already looking at a very high level of local procurement. A 50% threshold would be logical for something such as beef, which already fits into that.

There is a further question and further investigation regarding whether procurement can be assessed in terms of other relevant factors. I am happy to have a further debate about that in general. It can apply to a wide range of concepts. It could even apply to how energy is sourced and supplied. There is always work defining what concepts such as sustainability or relevance to the environment could be in terms of transportation distances and so on. They are discussions to have. I have been having discussions in other areas, for reasons not linked to these trade discussions, on whether these factors can be brought to bear in procurement. We are very wary of introducing anything other than straightforward procurement rules, but I assure the noble Lord that—as with beef, where 81% is already UK beef—it would seem logical that a very high proportion of produce is sourced locally.

At the risk of delaying us on this point, the access that is given through these procurement chapters and for treaty state suppliers under the Procurement Bill is to cover procurement, which means procurements larger than the threshold amounts set out in the schedule to the Procurement Bill. For example, for local food production for a set of schools, this would have to be a procurement over £213,000. In truth, the issue is not whether there is an Australian company that is likely to bid for such a procurement, because these procurements will be smaller than that. It is whether beef from Australia is in this country and in circulation in their market which might then be used by local suppliers—but then they are a local supplier to the school.

I have appreciated my noble friend’s extremely positive interventions and applaud wholeheartedly his phrase, “Let’s get on with it.” He has also been extremely helpful in pointing out the specifics of the Bill and the difficulty of attaching these sorts of amendments to it, although I am very sympathetic to the overall philosophy of the desire for proper impact assessments, which we have had and agree to wholeheartedly in terms of the two-year and the five-year monitoring report. I stress again that this treaty does not create a precedent. However, it does create a model. I am very impressed and support wholeheartedly the flexibility of this agreement because it will allow us and allow noble Lords to call Ministers to account on a constant and rolling basis concerning the effectiveness of these trade treaties.

I believe that I have covered most of the points raised. I am very happy to continue a dialogue around these and any other measures that may not have been covered on this important piece of legislation. We believe, and I believe passionately, that this trade Bill is a good thing for this country. It will be of huge benefit to our citizens and our consumers. It will give us enormous additional security and allow us to have a closer relationship with two nations that have been, since their founding, sister nations of this country.

I am continually being asked by the representatives of Australia and New Zealand when this treaty will come into force because, as soon as it does, and only then, their businesses and citizens, and ours, will be able to take advantage of it. I call on this House to support the Government in this mission. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, to withdraw his amendment, and for the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, not to move theirs.

The TAC covering procurement seems to be a future possibility, and I welcome the Minister’s comments on it. On the questions of food standards and quality assurance that noble Lords have raised, we will wait and see. We will have a review in two years and a conclusion to that in five years, and we will find out whether the assurances that we seek on food standards have been maintained. I do not think that there is any doubt about this being a gateway agreement: it is clearly to do with the CPTPP. The impact assessment that we are calling for is a one-off. This is the first time that we have negotiated a trade deal for some 45 years. To make sure that we have covered all the bases and got things right, we thought that a review—rather more frequently than the five years offered—would have been better. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Clause 2: Further provision about power

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Clause 2, page 2, line 9, after “make” insert “different”

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment inserts a word missing from Clause 2(1)(a).

My Lords, Amendment 2, in my name, is a minor and technical amendment that has been tabled by the Government to correct a typographical error in the Bill and clarify the power available to Ministers of the Crown or a devolved Administration under Clause 1. I am very grateful for noble Lords’ scrutiny, which was instrumental in highlighting this typographical error in the Bill. In particular, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who is not in his usual place, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh, for highlighting this issue in Committee. If I may say so, their laser focus on detail in the Bill shows the real value of your Lordships’ House in ensuring that legislation is as robust and clear as possible. The Government are very grateful to noble Lords for highlighting this issue. I beg to move.

Amendment 2 agreed.

Amendments 3 to 6 not moved.

Clause 4: Extent, commencement and short title

Amendment 7

Moved by

7: Clause 4, page 3, line 4, at end insert—

“(2A) This Act expires at the end of the period of two years beginning with the day on which it is passed.”Member's explanatory statement

Adds a sunset Clause to the legislation.

I rise briefly to speak to Amendments 7 and 8 in this group. These two amendments would sunset the ability to make amendments to two years after the law passes or the UK’s accession to the CPTPP. Incidentally, the Government previously said that accession would happen last year, but, as I am sure we are aware, it has not yet taken place.

The Explanatory Notes to these deals state that each party to the free trade agreement should ensure that its domestic legislative framework is consistent with the obligations in the FTA. The UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand free trade agreements require changes to domestic procurement law. Therefore, why not have sunset powers in the legislation? Is there any expectation that achieving this intention would take more than two years, and are there concerns that constant updates would be required for whatever reason? If so, would it be right to do so for more than two years in any event? If accession to the CPTPP will change our trade relationship with Australia and New Zealand, will a domestic legislative framework need to be updated in a manner not possible within the powers in the Bill so that it is aligned with the CPTPP and these deals if they are to coexist? A series of trade experts have commented that the UK will be a rule-taker, not a rule-maker, when we join the CPTPP. The Minister may perhaps wish to comment on this interplay between the Australia and New Zealand trade deals and the CPTPP. I beg to move.

My Lords, I turn to Amendment 8 specifically, which seeks for the Bill to lapse when the UK joins the CPTPP. Bilateral free trade agreements, such as these signed with Australia and New Zealand, do not lapse due to membership of plurilateral agreements such as the CPTPP and the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. They exist alongside each other—that is important to note—with the UK having separate and continuing commitments under each. This is already the case with the numerous bilateral trade agreements that the UK has with members of the GPA, such as Canada, Switzerland, the Republic of Korea, the EU and Ukraine, to name a few.

I emphasise that the procurement chapters of the Australia and New Zealand agreements will not be superseded by the UK’s accession to the CPTPP. Accordingly, the power in the Bill will still be needed when the UK has acceded to the CPTPP, to implement future modifications to the Australia and New Zealand agreements. In light of this, I ask for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.

Amendment 8 not moved.