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Lords Chamber

Volume 835: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2024

House of Lords

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Durham.

Coram’s Charter for Children


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Coram’s Charter for Children, and what steps they plan to take to implement its recommendations to create better chances for children.

My Lords, we welcome the publication of Coram’s Charter for Children and are grateful for its work in supporting children, young people and families. All children need love and stability to be happy and to grow up capable of fulfilling their potential. The Government are committed to prioritising the needs of children, ensuring that their best interests are at the centre of policy- and decision-making.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. The charter outlines a social contract between society and children which seeks to ensure that they get a fair share, a secure future and an equal chance. It states clearly that, at the moment, life is not getting better for children and young people in our country. Will His Majesty’s Government ensure that children’s best interests are always preserved by having child impact assessments and finally appointing a Cabinet- level Minister for children?

The Government absolutely accept that Covid in particular had a marked effect on our children, but we already have a Cabinet-level Minister for children—the Secretary of State for Education, who represents the interests of children in Cabinet. We also have a child rights impact assessment that government departments can use.

My Lords, this morning a coalition of leading health bodies, with the support of the Children’s Commissioner, launched a report in the River Room aimed at improving children’s nutritional health. Like the Coram charter, it calls for the extension of free school meals, starting with all primary school children, and auto-enrolment. Will the Government finally listen to and act on the growing calls for the extension of free school meals, which the evidence shows will improve children’s health and educational performance?

I remind the noble Baroness that this Government have extended school meal eligibility more than any other, including through universal infant free school meals and for families with no recourse to public funds. Our strategy has been to support families in a major way, with £104 billion of support between 2022 and 2025 and, rightly, giving parents discretion on its use.

My Lords, the Minister well understands that in recent years there has been a steady run-down of family support services, at considerable cost to some children who would normally have been able to depend on this kind of help and support at a critical stage in their lives. Sadly, those children from the poorest homes who are affected in this way are also likely to be persistently absent from schools, thereby limiting their development. Will there be opportunities in future to increase family support services?

I would slightly reframe the noble Lord’s first assertion. There has been a redirection of resources to increasingly complex cases in child protection and a displacement of resources from some of the earlier help services. The House is aware of the Government’s commitment to rolling out family hubs and providing really comprehensive, targeted support to families who need it the most. I share the noble Lord’s deep concerns about attendance. All Ministers across the department have this as a primary focus.

My Lords, the Coram Charter for Children makes for disturbing reading. Some 4.2 million children in this country are in poverty—4.2 million children in a wealthy country. This figure is rising. The Minister will agree that this has devastating consequences for children’s health, security and opportunities. Can the Minister tell the House what action the Government plan to take to stop the cuts in children’s services?

We understand that local authorities are under significant financial pressure. That is why we have committed to major reform in relation to children’s social care, focusing increasingly on earlier intervention. Over the last three spending reviews, local government has seen real increases in its core spending power, with a major cash injection of £5.1 billion last year, of which £3.1 billion was provided through a central government grant.

My Lords, the Coram charter calls for the reform of childcare, enabling all children to have access to high-quality early years provision. I very much welcome the announcement last year of free provision for two year-olds from 1 April, with further extension later on. However, in the year that has just ended, there were 216 nursery closures in England, compared with 144 in the previous year. What steps are the Government taking to encourage early years providers to increase capacity to meet this new demand?

I thank my noble friend for his question. Of course, he is right about the number of closures, but overall, the workforce has increased by 4% in the last year. My noble friend asks about action now: we have announced an increase in the hourly rates paid to providers, to £5.88 for three to four year-olds, and up to £11.22 for the under twos. We are allowing parents to register their interest early in the new free childcare provision, allowing nurseries to expand. We have increased the flexibility for childminders to deliver their services outside the home.

Improving children’s lives should centre on ensuring that we deliver high standards for all children in all schools. According to an IFS report released last month, schools serving more disadvantaged pupils have seen larger spending cuts since 2010. How do the Government justify this gap in pupil spending?

I do not fully recognise the figures that the noble Baroness refers to. As she knows, we have been adjusting school funding to try to move towards a national funding formula. We have also invested increasingly in the pupil premium to support precisely the children whom she and the Government are most concerned about.

My Lords, looking at the other end of childhood—teenagers—will the Government do something better about youth clubs, which might have some effect on gangs?

There are multiple things that will have effects on gangs, but clearly the engagement of young people is very important, as the noble and learned Baroness suggests. That is why we made the national youth guarantee commitments in 2022.

My Lords, I acknowledge the Minister’s personal commitment to support children’s services and children themselves, but that is not necessarily the outcome delivered by other Ministers and her government department, as has been stated across the House. Will the Minister look at the practice in Tower Hamlets, which has been providing not only educational support but free meals from age three to senior school years? Will she undertake at least to explore why one authority can make it while others cannot?

The department is of course happy not only to look at the ability to provide meals in the way that the noble Baroness set out but to see their impact. A core principle of this Government is to give as much autonomy as possible to schools. They know their children and how to use their budgets; we trust them and back their judgment.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a patron of Coram, the country’s first and longest-serving children’s charity. Our Charter for Children makes several important recommendations, from early years education to school leavers and mental health, which should not be ignored because of financial constraints, as they will benefit society in the long term. We need to show that every child across the nation is valued and that no child is left behind, because, as I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime. Will the Minister agree to meet me and representatives from Coram to discuss this important report?

I would be delighted to meet the noble Baroness and the team from Coram. I put on record our thanks to them for all the work that they do.

Imprisonment for Public Protection


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reply to the letter addressed to them on 17 August 2023 by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and others, concerning imprisonment for public protection.

My Lords, the Government are grateful for the UN special rapporteur’s interest in this important matter and have considered her letter carefully. A response was sent on 19 December 2023 and published on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website at The IPP action plan aims to promote sentence progression for all those serving IPP sentences, and provisions in the Victims and Prisoners Bill will reduce the number subject to that sentence over time.

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend and apologise that my Question was tabled, quite by coincidence, on the day that the Government issued their response to the letter. Does he accept the evidence submitted to the Justice Select Committee in the other place, and referred to by the special rapporteur—that the mental health problems caused by the IPP sentence itself multiply the difficulties that the prisoners face in obtaining release, and that therefore the Government would be wholly justified in considering any legislation in treating them as a special case with particular needs and trying to assist them to obtain discharge of the sentence?

My Lords, the Government accept that there are certain special mental health issues for a number of these prisoners. They are being tackled, as far as we can do so, within the existing system. The action plan to which I referred contains provisions in that regard, particularly on improving psychological services and providing better support for prisoners on licence to avoid later recall. I do not accept the second part of my noble friend’s question that it follows that we need special legislation to deal with this.

My Lords, we must all be so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for his continued campaigning on this issue, and we are grateful to the Government for responding at such length to the rapporteur. If everything in the IPP garden is so rosy in relation to indeterminately detained people, some of whom would have got a sentence of only months for their actual crime, why did the Government abolish this sentence in the first place, and why did the noble Lord, Lord Clarke, as late as 2016 call the threshold that prisoners have to meet to secure their release both ridiculous and absurd?

I do not assert that everything in the garden is rosy. This area is one of the acute—perhaps the most acute—dilemmas faced by the Ministry of Justice. Your Lordships will be aware that the subject of IPP prisoners is being addressed in Part 4 of the Victims and Prisoners Bill currently before Parliament, which we will shortly discuss in detail in Committee, and I am meeting noble Lords on Thursday to take that discussion further.

My Lords, this is not just a major problem in the system; it is a major disgrace to the British justice system that these thousands of people are being kept in this way. When I persuaded my then Cabinet colleagues to abolish the IPP system because it was working so badly, unfortunately I was unable to persuade them to change the application of the licensing system in the ordinary way to these prisoners. I am glad that the Government are now contemplating action. I look forward to the legislation, but it has taken years. Will they consider something drastic, such as that, when prisoners are released on licence, the licence period should be for a much shorter period than usual, because at the moment people are being returned for quite minor breaches of licence, to the disproportionate consequence of an indeterminate sentence that may keep them in prison for life? Why cannot they be released on licence for 12 months and thereafter be subject to the usual criminal law for the protection of the public? Will the Minister consider that, and every other suggestion flowing to him from the campaigners?

My Lords, the House will be aware that the Victims and Prisoners Bill reduces the qualifying licence period from 10 years to three, with the presumption of termination at that point, and automatic termination two years thereafter if there is no recall in the meantime. A recent report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation found that in none of the cases examined was the recall inappropriate but that, in some cases, further additional support in the community might have avoided the need for recall. That has led to a number of recommendations, all of which the Government have accepted.

My Lords, when I served on the Justice Committee in the Scottish Parliament, I recall that Scotland chose a different path from England and Wales when the sentences were introduced by the Labour Government in 2005, and it was right that they were abolished in 2012. The UN rapporteur’s figures make very sobering reading, stating that 97% of those still imprisoned are now two years beyond the tariff and 46% are 10 years beyond the tariff, with rehabilitation having been designed as an integral part of the sentencing. What are the obstacles for the Government in implementing the recommendations of the Justice Committee in the Commons, endorsed by the UN rapporteur, for resentencing and rehabilitation now being put forward? What are the obstacles to this happening, so we can finally put to bed what has been a very sorry exercise?

My Lords, I think I have explained this matter several times before to your Lordships but, in brief, the situation is this. We have 1,200 prisoners who have never been released. Almost all of those have come several times before the Parole Board, which each time has decided that they are not safe to release. Any resentencing exercise would inevitably either aim at or result in possibly a thousand persons being released who are not safe to release. The cohort includes many violent and sexual offenders, who are particularly difficult to manage in the community. The Government feel that they cannot take that risk and should not raise expectations but manage the situation by preparing the remaining prisoners for safe release.

My Lords, when IPP sentences were in place, the offender received a minimum tariff. When the offender went to prison, an offender manager, who is a probation officer, wrote a sentence plan. That same probation officer would also review that plan. Can the Minister say with confidence that all the elements of the sentence plans which are currently in place can be completed, and in a reasonable time?

My Lords, it is a very good question. A strengthened action plan—a strengthened sentence plan for each IPP prisoner—is an essential part of the wider IPP action plan. That is currently being worked on so that each IPP prisoner still in custody will have a personalised, updated and—we hope—effective sentence plan eventually leading to their release if that is at all possible. The newly established IPP progression board dealing with this matter now includes stakeholder representatives, who met in September and just before Christmas and will meet again in March, when we will report a full update on how the action plan is progressing.

My Lords, I reinforce the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Clarke. Has the time not come to provide a presumption that all IPP prisoners who have served the tariff should be released unless there is robust evidence tendered to the Parole Board that they are unsafe to be released?

My Lords, that is, in effect, the present position. The Government have no interest in holding these prisoners, especially given the pressure on the prison system generally. The Government’s fear, worry and concern is public protection, for the reasons I have given.

My Lords, the special rapporteur, Dr Alice Edwards, whom I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting last month with the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, stated forcefully that:

“The UK, as a society with a strong rule of law tradition, has measures in place to protect the community after individuals are released”.

Why then does the Minister think that these measures will be ineffective in the case of IPP prisoners?

The Government replied in detail to the learned special rapporteur with a letter of over 13 pages on 23 December, to which I refer your Lordships. I look forward to further debate and discussion on this matter when we are dealing with the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Water Pollution


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government, following the BBC “Panorama” documentary “The Water Pollution Cover-Up”, what assessment they have made of the ability of the Environment Agency to regulate and police water companies, and what steps they plan to take to stop sewage entering watercourses.

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. The Government are clear that the current volume of sewage being discharged into our waters is unacceptable. Our plan for water is addressing this and delivering more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement to clean up our water and water environment. Where there is evidence of wrongdoing, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to act.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box and I too declare my interests.

The “Panorama” programme threw up a lot of issues. It has not had quite the effect of “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”—although I wish it had, because there is a lot of covering up going on at the moment in terms of sewerage works in this country. I would like to raise one point; others will be raised as the Question goes on.

Campaigners and journalists have been using freedom of information requests or environmental information requests to water companies, to explore and expose the illegal sewage discharges. But, increasingly, the companies are refusing to comply. In fact, nine out of 11 water and sewerage companies in England and Wales have said that the ongoing Ofwat and Environment Agency investigations mean that they do not have to hand over any data. This is completely contrary to what David Black, the CEO of Ofwat, told the Public Accounts Committee just four weeks ago. He said this was not a good enough reason. Do the Government not agree that this data should be provided for the sake of transparency, public health and the protection of the environment? Sewage in our rivers is something that everyone in this country cares about.

I thank the noble Baroness for her Question. The Government do not believe that there is any collusion. The role of the Environment Agency, as the environmental regulator for water companies, is to provide guidance to help water companies with their water resource management and to ensure that they are complying with the regulations. On FoI and environmental information regulations, water companies are only subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and not the Freedom of Information Act 2000. For the purposes of the environmental information regulations, water companies are their own legal entity, which means that it is for the organisation itself to tell you why it cannot provide all, or some of, the information requested.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend to this House and congratulate him on his new appointment. Possibly the best way of preventing sewage entering the watercourses is to ensure the end of the automatic right to connect major new developments with inadequate, inappropriate piping. Will he look into when the consultation will be brought forward to implement Schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to ensure that there will be no automatic connections in these circumstances and a better use of SUDS and natural flood defences?

I thank my noble friend for her kind words, which are greatly appreciated. We will be implementing Schedule 3 to the water management Act, as previously announced. I hope that that addresses my noble friend’s question.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to his first outing at the Dispatch Box. It is clear from whistleblower evidence in the recent BBC “Panorama” investigation into water pollution that water companies can and do cheat the operator self-monitoring test by manipulating flows at failing sewage works. This ensures that there is no flow to sample when the official tester arrives. Will the Government concede that trusting companies that are financially motivated to cover up failing works to avoid penalties from Ofwat to carry out their own testing is not an effective regulatory system? Will they commit to putting robust independent regulation in place to ensure sewage works’ compliance?

Water companies, including United Utilities, have always been required to report pollution incidents and breaches of their permits to the Environment Agency. The agency also monitors and inspects water company sites independently. It has significantly driven up monitoring and transparency from water companies in recent years. Any reports of misreporting are a concern and, if there is evidence, the Environment Agency will always take action, including pursuing and prosecuting companies that are deliberately obstructive.

My Lords, I too welcome the noble Lord to his place and say how much I look forward to working with him in the coming months.

In a Written Answer, the noble Lord noted that, following pollution from United Utilities in the Windermere area, the Environment Agency recognised that it should have done better and referred itself for independent review by its Scottish partner. The Answer also stated that learning had been shared with the EA to inform future responses. How many similar regulatory failures have taken place over the last three years, and how will the department ensure transparency over the outcomes?

Again, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind words. The Environment Agency has fully reviewed the evidence about this incident and concluded that the most likely cause of the Cunsey Beck issue at Lake Windermere was algal bloom. However, since the Environment Agency did not identify a definitive source of this serious problem, it asked the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to review its response. As a result of the review, the Environment Agency has made improvements to water quality monitoring in the area, including installing sensors that monitor river quality in real time. We have no plans to reopen the investigation in the absence of any substantial new evidence.

My Lords, senior members of staff from water companies appearing in front of the regulatory committee told us that the monitoring that they have put in place is available freely, in real time, to the public. They now appear to be claiming that they are quasi sub judice because they are under investigation and are not prepared to provide that information. Is that something the Government will let them get away with?

The Government are very clear that we will be providing real-time information and that it will be available publicly. If any of the water companies feel that they will not be doing that, I can assure your Lordships that the Environment Agency will be chasing them.

I welcome the new Minister, but on this issue he has stepped into a large bucket of doo-doo. I am just warning him; we are very unhappy here about this. I did not see the BBC “Panorama” programme that was referred to, but it showed that United Utilities is due to receive millions of pounds in performance payments from bill payers, as a result of it covering up and wrongly categorising pollution incidents. Will the Government research and look into this fraud? The allegations are that the Environment Agency is also complicit and other water companies could be doing exactly the same.

When I watched the “Panorama” programme, I too was left with the distinct impression that something fishy was going on. However, it is standard practice for the initial and final categorisations to be different. This is because the initial categorisation is based on the information provided in an initial report. An Environment Agency officer will then gather evidence about the incident from a variety of sources, including attendants at the most significant pollution events. They will then assess this information and give a final categorisation that is based on the evidence rather than on the initial estimate.

My Lords, we made no progress on health and safety until we made company directors personally responsible. It is no good relying on a system of fines, because that just ends up putting up consumers’ bills. Now that my noble friend is in his new position, would he look at the prospect of holding boards to account for their performance in this regard? It would change the whole nature of their attitudes. On his point about something fishy going on, the point of this is that all the fish are dying.

As the former chair of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, I have some sympathy with my noble friend’s view. The Government have legislated to introduce unlimited penalties on water companies. I appreciate my noble friend’s point, but we have made a start in the right direction. A much wider range of issues can now be applied by the Environment Agency to hold water companies to account. As I stated at the beginning, the Government are acutely aware that the position is not satisfactory and are looking into the matter, with all seriousness.

National Health Service: Key Targets


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have in place to ensure the National Health Service meets its key targets.

The NHS has made progress against its targets, especially given the challenges of recovering from Covid-19, the changing demography and winter pressures. The Government recognise that there is still a way to go and are working non-stop to support the NHS to do better. I take this opportunity to thank all NHS staff for their hard work to improve performance this winter.

My Lords, I would like to join in thanking NHS staff, who are doing a fantastic job. There are some structural problems here. In particular, I am concerned about ambulance response times, which are causing a great deal of concern despite the Government having increased the category 2 call response times from 18 minutes to 30 minutes. Category 2 calls deal with such life-threatening events as strokes and heart attacks, so this is deeply worrying. What are His Majesty’s Government doing to reduce the response time? Will they consider returning to the 18-minute response time for category 2 calls?

I agree with the basic point, as I am sure all noble Lords will, that ambulances are on the front line and are the most important service in all of this. That is why we have invested in 800 new ambulances, with over £200 million of funding. It is early days, but that is starting to take effect. Regarding the category 2 issue, we have managed to halve the time it takes since last year, but it is still too long and we absolutely need to make more progress in this area.

Does the Minister agree with me that, if you really want to hit the targets for the NHS, you need to deal with the fact that 50% of people who present themselves at the NHS are suffering from food poverty? Why do we not concentrate on lifting the great weight on the NHS by doing serious work on getting rid of poverty?

I agree with the noble Lord that prevention is key. About half the number of people who turn up at A&E do not need to go to A&E and can be seen in other settings. I completely agree that all the elements in terms of prevention and getting ahead of the problem are key, including where there are issues around food.

My Lords, following on from the question from the right reverend Prelate and his reference to stroke patients, given that there is a three-hour window for stroke patients during which, if certain treatments are given, the outcome is so much better, what have the Government done to ensure that, adding on the ambulance time to the time when the patient then arrives at hospital, more patients are being treated within that window? Is there a target specifically for stroke patients? It makes such a difference.

My noble friend is absolutely correct, and strokes have been a major focus. I am glad to say that was one of the first areas where we rolled out AI everywhere, with the result that we were able to improve treatment times so much—and I will get the precise figures to my noble friend—that the recovery rate has increased by two-thirds as a result. It is absolutely right that this is an area of top focus.

My Lords, the Government keep telling us—and I understand why and congratulate them on it—that the number of people employed as doctors and nurses has risen in recent years. Can the Minister explain why productivity over the same time has reduced by 4%?

The noble Baroness is correct: staff numbers have gone up but, for a number of reasons that we are exploring, output has not gone up by the same amount. It is a key point, and I think all noble Lords agree that making sure we are getting value for money out of the service is important. We are engaged in a productivity study to discover the reasons right now.

My Lords, back in 2013, the Government set a target for the NHS to become paperless by 2018, which they later extended to 2020 when the target seemed too ambitious. This may come as something of a surprise to the millions of people who continue to have regular paper-based interactions with the NHS. Could the Minister tell the House when he now expects the target for the NHS becoming fully digital to be met? Would he agree that it is now even more important that we achieve it than when it was first set over a decade ago?

I definitely agree that it is more important, and that is why I am pleased that we have made such progress. If we look at one area in terms of hospital records being available and doctors’ records to patients, that has gone up since the beginning of the year from about 1% of GPs to about 90% today. About 90% of all our hospital records are now digitised, compared to less than 3% in Germany. We have made massive progress, and it is key to all of the reform and to improving productivity across the NHS.

My Lords, the Minister well knows that we have raised the issue of primary care again and again in this Chamber. Would he be kind enough to tell the House how the Government feel they are doing with regard to the retention of very highly qualified general practitioners at the height of their career, who are currently leaving early? Up to about 50% are considering retirement before the retirement age. Will he comment on how he feels that is going?

Staff retention, particularly of GPs, is vital. That is why we listened to the number one reason they were retiring, which was the feeling that their pensions were being adversely affected. We changed the rules in the last Budget to try to address that; it is early days, but I hear that that is starting to make progress. Primary care is the front line. That is why I am pleased that we have increased the number of appointments by more than 50 million, ahead of our manifesto target. But it absolutely needs to be a key focus.

My Lords, I draw attention to my registered interests. The long-term—and, indeed, the short and medium-term—sustainability of the NHS is critically dependent upon active engagement in research and the adoption of innovation at scale and pace. Is the Minister content that His Majesty’s Government are doing enough to ensure that the NHS is resourced to support that research and innovation agenda?

It is key, and I think we are all aware that a couple of years ago—this was a result of the report of the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy—we were not doing as well as we needed to be in the clinical trials area. I am glad to say that, since then, there has actually been a lot of progress towards it, so we are now hitting similar levels to comparative nations. Innovation is at the heart of everything we have done. We have some very good examples of that; I mentioned the stroke AI treatment earlier. We have just set a similar thing in terms of AI for looking at chest cancers, but it is absolutely something we need to make sure we continue to progress.

My Lords, the King’s Fund has highlighted a delay to the release of additional funding to help NHS and social care services prepare for winter, which will of course only worsen the situation of missed targets and wait times for patients. Can the Minister tell the House what the reasons are for this delay and what steps are being taken to unblock the money to get it to where it is needed?

One of the key learnings from last year, which goes back to the whole question about planning, was actually that if you put social care moneys in too late, you do not get nearly as effective spend. That is why we brought forward the £600 million discharge fund much earlier—actually, into the summer—so that local authorities and care providers could plan on that money. It is starting to make a difference. A key thing that noble Lords have heard me talk about is bed-blocking. Actually, we have seen a 10% reduction in bed-blocking since these measures have come into effect in the last few weeks. It is early days, but we are actually making progress.

My Lords, the number of over-85s is due to double over the next 30 years. Would my noble friend the Minister give some consideration to government funding for extra care facilities and at-home treatment, such as physiotherapy, in order that pressure be taken off acute district hospital beds in respect of older people?

Funnily enough, I had this conversation in terms of productivity just today. The virtual wards—the 11,000 extra beds we have put in—are actually making a real impact on that, because of course it is much better that people can be treated in their own home, knowing they have the comfort of these virtual displays and treatment to look after them. We have 11,000 extra beds, with 72% utilisation, and, yes, it is really working.

My Lords, the Minister keeps talking about progress being made, but if he looks at, say, the four-hour A&E target, he knows that the latest figures show that the NHS reached only 69% in December. In 2010, his party inherited a performance of 98.3%. What does he think that says about his party’s stewardship of the NHS?

I can talk about what we are doing now, which is showing real progress. But I have to say that the saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” comes to mind, because, looking at those same targets, I notice that the Labour-run NHS in Wales never reached the four-hour A&E target; the last time it hit the 62-day cancer target was in August 2010, 14 years ago; and the last time it hit the hospital treatment target was in August 2010. I say politely that the noble Lord might want to get his own house in order first.

Rohingya Refugees


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what steps he is taking to address the Rohingya Refugee crisis.

My Lords, since 2017, we have provided more than £373 million in funding for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and more than £30 million for Rohingya and other Muslim minorities in Myanmar. In December, at the Global Refugee Forum, we announced an additional £7 million for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and for the Myanmar humanitarian crisis. We also reiterated our commitment to finding a long-term solution to the crisis, including the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the Rohingya to Myanmar when conditions there allow.

My Lords, I am grateful for all that His Majesty’s Government have been doing to support the victims of this terrible humanitarian crisis. However, UK aid to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has actually declined by about 82% since 2019-20. In the past year, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have suffered flooding, cyclones and fires, and cuts in food rations, simply because of reductions in aid. Just two weeks ago, 800 dwellings in Cox’s Bazar were destroyed by a fire. In the light of this terrible humanitarian crisis that we are observing, what other resources can His Majesty’s Government offer to try to address this dreadful problem?

The right reverend Prelate is entirely right about the scale of this crisis. There are 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh—think of the scale of that—with people often living in IDP camps and other temporary accommodation. I do not deny for a moment that the scale of funding has gone down. That is the same with many aid programmes, because of the move from 0.7% to 0.5%. Crucially, it is due also to the diversion of a lot of aid money to support refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan, which I think was entirely the right thing to do. We will be spending another £20 million next year. To put it in context, Britain’s contribution has been almost twice as much as the EU’s over the past seven years. We are playing our role to make sure that this is not the forgotten crisis.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the Burma Campaign UK. All leaders of the Rohingya community associations have led calls for the British Government, as the penholder on Burma at the UN, to take action. If the British Government are not going to convene a meeting of the UN Security Council to address the failing of the Burmese military to take measures as instructed by the ICJ to prevent further ongoing genocide against the Rohingya, what action are the Government taking to ensure a level of protection for the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar?

The noble Baroness is entirely right: we are the penholder, and we take that duty very seriously. We have taken a range of action on this. Fundamentally, we are making sure that aid is going in—and I have just said what our contribution has been—and, secondly, that proper authorities are put in place to stop gender-based violence, collect evidence from the camps and make sure that people are held accountable. The third part of the strategy must be to put pressure on the Government to recognise that this country needs to have proper provision for all its ethnic minorities and parts, and to make sure that there is, effectively, a peace process and a more inclusive set of arrangements for the country, so that everyone can feel that they have a part in its future. Ultimately, no one wants the Rohingya to have to stay in Bangladesh; they should be able to go home.

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary’s response to the right reverend Prelate indicated that funds have been diverted to the Ukraine resettlement scheme away from other schemes. I have asked in this Chamber, time and again, whether funds to support the Ukraine resettlement scheme in the UK have been diverted from other areas. Ministers have denied that, so can the Foreign Secretary clarify that point on the record? Secondly, the UK has been a refuge for many Rohingya who have sought asylum here under the Gateway Protection Programme. This was closed in 2020. On Friday, the Home Office’s Report on Safe and Legal Routes said that there are no safe and legal routes that the Rohingya would be able to apply for. Can the Minister assure me that, if any Rohingya is seeking refuge in the UK through a proper asylum application but is undocumented, they will not be detained and sent to Rwanda under his new scheme?

First, let me clarify the point I made. Obviously, the ODA budget qualifies to pay for refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Effectively, what happened over previous years was not only that the budget moved from 0.7% to 0.5% but that some of it was taken up, quite rightly, by ODA spending on looking after people from Ukraine and Afghanistan. We can now see that the overseas aid budget being spent overseas is actually increasing. For instance, when it comes to Africa, next year the budget will be almost doubling, to well over £1 billion. On what we want to see with the Rohingya, clearly there is a huge refugee crisis. They are being looked after in Bangladesh. Ideally, when circumstances are right, they will be able to go home. In between now and then, I think we should learn the lesson of the Syrian refugee crisis, where we did a lot to help countries such as Lebanon and particularly Jordan to make sure that people were able to stay there, work there and build livelihoods there, and then, when it is possible, go home.

My Lords, looking specifically at the point the right reverend Prelate raised about the plight of the refugees in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, will the Minister look again at what happened only last week, when 5,000 of those refugees were displaced from the shacks and tents in which they had been living as a result of a fire? The Minister invited us to look at the longer term. I reinforce what the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, said about the International Court of Justice, which has imposed interim provisional measures on the Burmese military, with the support of the British Government, which is extremely welcome. Will he raise at the Security Council the failure to implement that and will he have discussions with the National Unity Government about the long-term rights of the Rohingya, the Kachin, the Karen and the other ethnic and religious minorities? That is the fundamental issue: if someone is not an equal citizen in the new Burma that will emerge after the coup, nothing will change.

Fundamentally, the noble Lord is completely right about the interim measures which have been set out by the International Court of Justice. It is incumbent on the Government of Myanmar to make sure they are put in place and to abide by them. The noble Lord made the general point that what is required is an inclusive, federal state, where every ethnicity and every nationality can feel it has a part to play in the country and that it will benefit from the country’s resources. Obviously, we have this military Government, with whom we have very limited contact, but for the long-term future of Myanmar, that is the only answer.

My Lords, following on from the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I think the Minister will understand that the House does not find his answers completely satisfactory. He has said that it is the responsibility of the Government of Myanmar, and he knows that action is not being taken. The range of actions he has outlined seem to be around data collection and putting pressure on the Government. As the penholder in the Security Council on this issue, there is a special responsibility on the British Government. Is he able to say what discussions he has had with other members of the Security Council about putting pressure on the Government? Otherwise, nobody is going to be held to account for the crisis which has emerged.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right that we take our responsibilities very seriously. We have those discussions at permanent-member level of the UN Security Council. I will personally take this up with Barbara Woodward, our excellent permanent representative, to see what more can be done over the coming period. Fundamentally, we have set out what we think is necessary: the aid to go in, the accountability to be in place and the pressure for a long-term solution, and, at the same time, the Government obeying the interim measures set out by the ICJ.

My Lords, the failure of the international community to deal with the attempted genocide in Myanmar against the Rohingya is just one example of the failure of the responsibility to protect norms over the course of the past decade in so many places. What are the Government doing to reinvigorate the discussion on responsibility to protect at the United Nations and ensure that there is a refreshed approach to this in place that will help protect citizens who are under attack from their own Government, legitimate or otherwise?

The issue of the responsibility to protect is one we have taken forward and discuss with allies and partners. It is developing a doctrine, as it were. When it comes to this issue, we have a role; we are making a contribution and we are, I think, doing more than many countries of our size and scale. I think that there is a lot we should do to sort support ASEAN. It has set out its five principles for dealing with Myanmar, which we support, and has a co-ordinator from Laos who we want to work with. Ultimately, we should respect the fact that, in its region, ASEAN should take the lead on this issue and we can support where we can.

My Lords, on or about 28 December, it was widely reported that Indonesia had pushed back a boat containing a significant number of Rohingya refugees out of its territorial waters. I have not been able to find any report of what has happened since to the people on that boat. Would the Minister agree that that is absolutely unacceptable behaviour, out of line with international law? Have the Government made, or will they make, any representations on this to Indonesia? Do we not have to make sure that refugees are safe?

I am not aware of that report; I will certainly go away and look into it. What we would say is that Bangladesh should be praised for the role that it is playing in taking quite so many refugees. Obviously, there are huge pressures—there are worries about conditions in the camps and whether there is enough food—but, ultimately, Bangladesh is looking after a million people, and that is why we are supporting it to the extent that we are. Every country should take its responsibilities towards refugees very seriously.

Israel and Gaza


Tabled by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what steps he is taking to secure a lasting ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Gaza.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Janke is unwell. With her permission, and on her behalf, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, we support a ceasefire, but this must be a sustainable ceasefire that will last and prevent another generation living under the constant threat of war. That must mean that Hamas is no longer in power in Gaza, able to threaten Israel with rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism. Ahead of a permanent ceasefire, we want to see immediate and sustained humanitarian pauses to allow hostages to leave and more aid to enter Gaza, helping to create the conditions for a durable peace. As I said at the weekend, we would like to see such a pause start right now.

My Lords, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his reply, and I agree with most of it. However, these Benches have for a number of weeks called for an immediate bilateral ceasefire, beyond a truce, which would allow hostages to be returned, bombing to stop and, of course, vital lifesaving aid to be secured. Why have the Government failed so far to persuade the Israeli Government to allow much greater access for the humanitarian aid that is needed? There are 1.9 million displaced people, many of whom are now facing famine. We now know that, when it comes to civilian casualties, this is the most deadly conflict in the 21st century. The UK will need to increase its support of humanitarian assistance, but it cut that from £107 million to £12 million between 2019 and 2023. I support the increase in aid but, surely, there will need to be an increase of the cap of 0.5% if we are to do our bit and ensure that aid is increased.

First, I would say to the noble Lord that we have trebled the amount of aid that we are putting into Gaza. I very much take on board what he says about the pressure we need to put on not just the Israeli Government but other Governments in the region to get more aid in. Right now, as we speak, nine out of 10 people in Gaza are living on less than one meal a day. It is that serious. That is why I have had repeated conversations with the Israelis and set out a whole series of bottlenecks that need to be relieved. We need Kerem Shalom open all the time. We need the Nitzana checkpoint open all the time. I would like to see the port of Ashdod opened in Israel so that aid can get into the country through maritime routes and more swiftly into Gaza.

Crucially, we will not see more aid get to the people who need it unless the United Nations inside Gaza has the vehicles, the people and the fuel to get it around. Those permissions need to be given. I have had these conversations most recently this morning with the new UN aid co-ordinator, who I am confident will do an excellent job. We will keep up the pressure for this, because, as I have said, an immediate pause to help get that aid in and to help get hostages out is essential.

Will the Foreign Secretary consider very seriously creating a UN protection force for humanitarian relief? That was done successfully in the winter of 1992 in a very difficult situation, with no ceasefire, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I recommend that approach. Although a ceasefire is essential, it is not in the immediate future very likely, but the humanitarian crisis is getting worse every day. They cannot get relief in without some form of protection from UN forces.

I take what the noble Lord says, as a former Foreign Secretary, extremely seriously. What would make a difference is if Israel recognised its responsibilities for making sure that food, medicine and supplies have to be delivered to people in Gaza, and if it recognised that you need the UN staff who have the visas, the equipment and the fuel to help get it around. I will certainly take away the suggestion that the noble Lord makes, but the calculation here is quite simple. Before the conflict, some 500 trucks were going into Gaza every day. I check the figures every single day; we are up to about 150 trucks at the moment. That is not enough. The longer it goes on, the greater the risk of people going hungry and the greater the risk of disease and this humanitarian crisis getting worse. A pause would help, because there is no doubt that it would be easier to get food and other forms of aid in. It would also be very good to make some progress on the hostages, families of whom I met this morning.

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary makes an alarming point: that within Gaza nine out of 10 Palestinians are not even getting a single meal every day. The need for a sustained ceasefire is absolutely clear as a first step towards getting humanitarian aid in. The Government confirmed last week that currently there are no plans for RAF aid flights or deliveries by the Royal Navy. Can he say why that is? Surely that would be a good way of getting aid in and trying to get around some of the problems that we have at the moment.

We are looking at every single way of getting aid in. Of course, there are maritime options, and we had a ship leaving Cyprus and taking aid to Port Said in Egypt. The so-called over-the-beach option of trying to land aid in Gaza is extremely difficult for reasons of operational security and other forms of security. On dropping aid by air, the French and Jordanians did so recently, but it was less aid than you would get into one truck. The truth is that the best way to get aid into Gaza is through trucks. As I said, 500 are needed, 150 are happening, and if you opened up Kerem Shalom seven days a week, if you had the Nitzana checkpoint open 24/7 and if you had the people inside Gaza, there would be plenty of aid. There is no shortage of aid and no shortage of countries prepared to make the financial commitment. In the end, trucks are faster, and it is trucks that we need.

My Lords, women and children are always disproportionately affected by conflict. The UK considers itself a global leader on the women, peace and security agenda and holds the pen for this at the UN Security Council. Why are we not hearing from women’s groups? After all, they were integral in bringing peace in both Northern Ireland and Liberia.

It is very important that we hear from everybody. One of the things that I do with the responsibilities of the aid and development portfolio that is now squarely within the Foreign Office is to make sure that we listen to all the NGOs, all the experts and all the people who can make a difference when it comes to getting aid in and trying to relieve this desperate humanitarian situation.

When the Foreign Secretary said

“I am worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law”,

did he have in mind the principle of proportionality in armed conflict and whether it is a proportionate self-defence by Israel to have been responsible so far for some 24,000 Palestinian deaths, including 10,000 children?

What I meant when I said that was simply that I worry about these things. It is my job to worry. The Foreign Office has a job, which is to look at the legal advice and work out whether Israel is committed to, and capable of complying with, international humanitarian law, and then, based on that judgment, we have to take a series of actions, including looking at things like export licences. We always urge Israel to obey international humanitarian law, and it is important that we do so.

Is it not the case that there would be an immediate ceasefire tomorrow if Hamas were to release the hostages and lay down its weapons, and if the criminals who did atrocities on 7 October were to go and join their leaders in luxury hotels in the Gulf?

My noble friend makes a good point, which is that Hamas could end this tomorrow by saying that it was going to lay down its weapons or leave. Everyone is aware that we want a sustainable ceasefire. That means Hamas not in power and not able to launch rockets and terror, and we have said we want to see an immediate pause so we can get aid in and hostages out. However, in many ways, the very best outcome would be to see whether we could convert that immediate pause for aid and hostages into a sustainable ceasefire without further hostilities. But for that to happen, a series of other things would have to happen: there would have to be immediate negotiations to release all the hostages, the Hamas leadership would have to leave Gaza, and we would have to be clear that there was no more danger of rocket and terror attacks on Israel. We would have to put together something based on the Palestinian Authority, backed by other Palestinians, going back into Gaza. In many ways, that would be the best outcome, but if we call now for an immediate ceasefire with no further fighting when Hamas is still in power, still launching rockets and still capable of launching terror attacks, not only would we not have a sustainable ceasefire and peace but we would have no hope of the thing that I think many in this House would like to see, which is a two-state solution.

UN Sustainable Development Goals


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what steps he is taking to promote the implementation of the UN sustainable development goals.

My Lords, the UK was instrumental in developing the sustainable development goals. Following the global recommitment to the SDGs at the United Nations General Assembly last autumn, we recognise the opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of collective purpose and partnership to deliver those goals. The international development White Paper sets out a re-energised agenda for the UK, working with partners, to accelerate progress on the SDGs by 2030. We will champion the SDGs throughout the key summits and meetings this year, and I will be making a speech on the SDGs in Davos tomorrow.

I very much welcome that last comment. Of course, one barrier to progress is debt. The average low-income country now spends 2.3 times more on servicing debt than on social assistance. At the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, the Minister stressed the importance of cross-Whitehall working to address priority areas, and debt is one of those areas.

One of the mechanisms that the UN adopted for monitoring progress on the SDGs is voluntary national reviews. We had our last one—our only one—in 2019. Spain is due to publish its third, Argentina its fourth, but what are we doing? Can the Minister explain why we have not followed that example and used the voluntary national reviews?

I very much agree with the noble Lord on the important position regarding debt and what needs to be done to help countries to relieve their debt. I do not necessarily think the answer is always to cancel debt, because in many cases that affects a country’s credit rating, but we support things such as climate resilient debt clauses and the flexibility they give.

On voluntary national reviews, we had one in 2019, as the noble Lord knows, but we have not made a decision about a follow-up. I say to him: look, it is not really Britain that is the problem in meeting the SDGs. What has happened here is that, because of Covid and Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, African countries have had a triple whammy. They have had the whammy of Covid, the whammy of higher fuel prices and the whammy of higher food prices. That has caused an increase in poverty and set the SDGs off track. We have to energise the world—the voluntary sector and, crucially, the private sector—to invest in the future of the SDGs and get us back on track.

My Lords, instead of going on with slogans such as “Stop the boats” and gimmicks such as deportation to Rwanda, is not the best way to help to reduce illegal migration to see increased assistance to these countries to make it possible for the people who have to migrate, who are forced to leave their countries, to live there in peace and prosperity?

I certainly half agree with the noble Lord: the investment that we can put into the countries from which the migrants are coming is essential. We have to ensure that countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa are building a future for their own people and providing jobs; otherwise, those people will be on the move. The figures are outstanding: the population of Europe in 1950 was twice that of Africa, but by the end of this century the population of Africa will be four times that of Europe. So making sure that those countries develop is crucial but, at the same time, when you have problems of widespread illegal immigration, it is important to stop the boats.

My Lords, will the Foreign Secretary not take another look at the issue of debt forgiveness that he spoke rather critically of just now? In previous iterations of this saga, we have recognised in the end that debt forgiveness was necessary for some of the poorest countries. Could he not look at that again, as well as whether we could link it with the commitment by a country that was forgiven its debt to do more on climate change?

I respect the noble Lord and what he says. We have been leaders on this through the Paris Club and other mechanisms; in many cases it has been the right thing to do to write down a country’s debt. With respect to climate change, these climate resilient debt clauses can make a great difference in helping these countries. Fundamentally, if we want to achieve the SDGs, we need to motivate global finance, and one of the ways that we can do that is through the multilateral development banks because if they expand their balance sheets there is probably an extra £400 billion that they can invest to help these countries with their growth.

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary has said he thinks that the merger of DfID and the Foreign Office, and the cuts in aid, were justified; that was not what he said at the time. How much does he regret that his successors have trashed his proud legacy and, more to the point, how assured can he be that the funding for Africa, which is still being cut even if an increase has been promised, will not be diverted to the Home Office, as has happened in the last two years?

That is not exactly what I said. I am very proud that we reached 0.7%. I had some disagreements with this Government before I joined but politics is a team enterprise; when you decide to join a Government, you accept Cabinet collective responsibility and you accept you are going to work with that team and the policies they have. I am proud that, with 0.5% and a growing economy, we are seeing more money going to overseas development. Now that the refugee crisis is abating—I mentioned Africa—we will see, in our budgets, an increase from £600 million to over £1.2 billion, and we are committed, when the fiscal rules allow, to get back to the 0.7% that we historically achieved.

My Lords, the biggest threat to the SDGs in Africa is conflict and internal instability. In the Sahel, this has increased ever since the disastrous Libyan incursion that the Foreign Secretary will remember very well. What steps does he personally intend to take to enhance security and democracy in sub-Saharan Africa, and will that include aid to civil society organisations?

The noble Lord is quite right that if you look at the SDGs and poverty more generally, half of the poorest people in the world are now in fragile states. If we cannot help to fix fragile and conflict-affected states, we will not meet the SDGs. If you look across the Sahel, there have been a number of coups and wars and a lot of instability, so I do not think there is a single answer to this, but one of the issues, when we look at aid and development and how we help these countries, is how making sure that they have adequate security is essential. Often in this House, or in the other place, we say that defence is the first duty of a Government, but when it comes to aid, we set up a whole series of different things that we think countries ought to achieve. We must help them with their fundamental and basic security, and that is something we are committed to doing.

Some 60% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are smallholder farmers, and most of them are women. Food from domestic resources is crucial for reaching many of these SDG goals: poverty; hunger; health; management of water; even education, because these lady farmers put nearly every penny they make from their food production into educating their children. Will the noble Lord please undertake—and I ask as one Lord Cameron to another—to boost the currently small team in his department that is involved in agriculture to enable them to help these lady farmers to feed their families and their nations and resolve many of these sustainable development goals?

I will certainly take away what the noble Lord said and look at it carefully. In history, it is true that a green revolution of productivity in agriculture has almost always been necessary to see more of an industrial revolution and an increase in prosperity. But the noble Lord made a good point about small farmers—as we should keep it in the family, I had better go and have a careful look at it.

My Lords, the sustainable development goals included volunteering this time. As Prime Minister, the noble Lord really supported volunteering and introduced the International Citizen Service, which was run by VSO in this country incredibly successfully, so that the African Union then took it up as a major way of engaging the millions of young people in Africa whom he talked about. But a generation of young people in this country, and in the countries that organisations such as VSO work in, has missed out. Can he assure me that volunteering will now play a central part in the Government’s strategy to re-energise the achievement of the sustainable development goals and to do something to enable young people, here, in Africa and around the developing world, to get the skills and leadership that they need?

One of the great strengths of the SDGs was that they were much more comprehensive than the millennium development goals that they replaced. In fact, I helped to chair the panel that set them up, and we were determined that we would involve the private sector, bring together economic growth and climate, have much more to say about gender, and, as the noble Baroness rightly said, make sure that things such as volunteering were included. I am glad she mentioned the International Citizen Service, which I was proud to establish as Prime Minister. My International Development Secretary was Andrew Mitchell; the noble Baroness will notice that he and I are now back in the same department, and we hope to make some progress on this issue.

Rules-based International Order


Asked by

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what steps he is taking to champion a rules-based international order.

My Lords, an open and stable international order is in our interest. We use it to deliver on issues of domestic and global importance, such as the Bletchley AI safety declaration. We invest in it, as the fifth-largest UN budget contributor. We support reform of it to ensure that it benefits everyone, and we hold to account those who undermine it, including through steadfast support to Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and ensuring maritime security in the Red Sea. In a dangerous and uncertain world, this stable international order is more essential than ever.

I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the clarity of that Answer on the importance and scale of his task. I wonder whether that task was helped or hindered by two developments yesterday. The first was fresh advice from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that the Rwanda scheme, now updated by the Rwanda treaty and the safety of Rwanda Bill, is still contrary to international law. The second development was comments by the Prime Minister on GB News that the Court of Human Rights is a “foreign” court and that he is prepared to defy it.

We do not believe that the Rwanda scheme is contrary to international law. I would characterise it by saying that things like the refugee convention were written for another age, when there was not mass international travel or the ubiquity of mobile phones. We are saying that, yes, this is out-of-the-box thinking and it is quite unorthodox, but you have a choice, frankly: when you have people arriving from a perfectly safe country into another safe country, you have to deal with that trade. That requires some fresh thinking. It is not possible to put people straight back in a boat and take them back to France, which is why the Rwanda scheme is being introduced. It is within the law and it is novel, but I believe it can work.

My Lords, as many feel that the whole international rule of law is collapsing before our eyes and as my noble friend has rightly remarked that this is a very dangerous and fragile international situation, does he agree that it will be coped with only by new international organisations and institutions or by brushing up the present set of them? Can he share his thoughts on where the priorities in that process should be? Should we concentrate on repairing the United Nations, which is in a mess, or invent new structures in that respect, as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, just suggested? Might the Commonwealth, by far the largest network of voluntary, like-minded nations in the world, have an important role in building up a future structure to deal with all these crises?

My Lords, that is an excellent question but difficult to answer. Fundamentally, we are in almost all these networks—we are in the G7, the G20 and the OECD, we are the fifth-biggest contributor to the UN and a permanent member of the Security Council—so we should be quite thoughtful and selective about where we think institutions can be strengthened. A good example of that is NATO; it is undoubtedly stronger than it was two, four, six, eight or 10 years ago, which is a very good thing. Some organisations you could spend the rest of your political life trying to reform but struggle to make progress—I might put the United Nations in that category. We should use what we have and make it work as well as we can, but we should also look at new institutions when there is a specific problem, such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which does amazing work that we should get behind. I am a practical conservative; I do not have an all-encompassing, global set of rules that we must abide by. Let us take what we have and, where we can, improve it.

My Lords, the noble Lord has been engaged in the enlargement of the UN Security Council. Can he update us on the progress of that, including the system of penholders? Also, when nations fail in their most important task of protecting the safety and security of their people, civil society is often the first to come to their defence. Guterres and the UN have encouraged the involvement of civil society in the Security Council. What does the noble Lord think about that and will he do more to support the Secretary-General in engaging with civil society?

I certainly support engaging with civil society at the United Nations Security Council, as we have been doing. I will look very carefully at what Secretary-General Guterres has said. We support United Nations Security Council reform—India should be a permanent member and we need to look at the representation of Africa—but, candidly, in trying to make progress in these reforms, this will be a very difficult one on which to get unanimity. In this difficult, dangerous and disputatious world, the most important thing is to ask what we can do to strengthen our networks, NATO and our defence, security and intelligence forces to keep us safe at home and to ask through which institutions we can get things done. That is my priority. Although I support United Nations Security Council reform, it might be some time coming.

My Lords, I think the Foreign Secretary said to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that Rwanda is a “perfectly safe country”. If that is the case, why do we still grant asylum to people coming from Rwanda? He suggested that international refugee law is rather out of date, implying that if a law comes from a different age then it can be ignored. Is that really the inference that he wanted to leave with the House?

No. I am saying that in the modern world, where you have the ubiquity of mobile phones and mass cheap travel, countries have to make a decision about how to deal with illegal migration. I will be very frank with the noble Baroness: I do not think that we can tolerate a situation where there is very wide-scale, visible illegal migration taking place in small boats. It is not only desperately dangerous and unsafe for the people who do it—another four people lost their lives in the freezing cold waters of the English Channel the other night—but it completely undermines faith in our immigration system. As I said, all these people are coming from a totally safe country, France.

You have a choice in politics. You can say—and I do not want to get too political, because I know that is not the way of this House—that you are going to work on dealing with the criminal gangs and work on more agreements with France. I agree with all those things. However, ultimately, if you do not say to the people who come in the boats that they cannot stay here because they came illegally, you will not stop this trade and you are not going to save those lives. This Government have made a choice: that is what we are going to do. Yes, it is complicated; yes, it is expensive; yes, in the case of Rwanda, is it out-of-the-box thinking. However, it is the right thing to do because, if you do not do it, you will carry on with the problem.

It is not just Britain that has this issue. Some 6 million people have crossed the southern border in the United States. Country after country in Europe is looking at novel thinking for how to deal with illegal immigration. We have to do that, because otherwise we will have a system which will have no public confidence.

My Lords, one of the best ways that the UK could stand up for a rules-based international order would be to do all we can to secure the release of Vladimir Kara-Murza, the British citizen incarcerated on trumped-up charges by Putin. Will the Foreign Secretary agree to an urgent meeting with me, his wife Evgenia Kara-Murza and those campaigning for his release?

I think I am right in saying that a meeting has already been arranged and is in process. I do not know whether the noble Lord will be joining us, but it would be a pleasure to get together after all these years.

My Lords, in furtherance of a rules-based society, I suggest to my noble friend that it would be desirable if he could promote a coalition of willing states to reinforce the efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom to ensure safe navigation in international seas. We need a coalition of willing nations to participate.

We do have a coalition of not only those countries taking part in Operation Prosperity Guardian in the Red Sea, but all those countries supporting it. Again, even when it came to the military action, there was a coalition of countries—including the Dutch, Canada and Australia—backing us militarily, and a wider coalition of countries supported the action taken. Wherever possible, we should build a coalition, but sometimes it is necessary to act quickly, and I think the Prime Minister made the right decision.

My Lords, how does a rules-based international order sit with the destruction of the Sino-British treaty, an international treaty, which has led to the dismantling of democracy and of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong? How does it sit alongside the show trials of Jimmy Lai, a British citizen, and the naming in those proceedings of four other British citizens, including our former consul-general Andrew Heyn? Surely that in turn is a breach of the Geneva convention. Why have the Government not yet done anything to use Magnitsky sanctions against any of those who have been responsible for these things?

One of the reasons for supporting a rules-based order is that it enables you to call out other countries when they fail to live up to it. That is exactly what we have done in the case that the noble Lord refers to. That is why we have said that the national security law needs to be taken out, and that is why we have said that Jimmy Lai needs to be released. We have been very clear about that and how we do not think that it is in line with the arrangements that were put in place when the Hong Kong agreement was reached.

Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill

First Reading

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) Regulations 2023

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 14 November 2023 be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 January.

Motion agreed.

Data Reporting Services Regulations 2023

Securitisation Regulations 2023

Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (High-Risk Countries) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2023

Motions to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 27 November and 4 December be approved. Considered in Grand Committee on 10 January.

Relevant document: 7th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Vere of Norbiton, I beg to move the Motions standing in her name on the Order Paper en bloc.

Motions agreed.

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL]


Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Legislative Consent sought.

Clause 3: Procurement

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 3, page 2, line 8, leave out “and (b)” and insert “or

(b) funded by an international organisation of which the United Kingdom is a member to a lesser extent, and”

My Lords, this group and the next group of amendments follow debates that took place in Committee, and I am very grateful for the Minister’s response then and for his subsequent letters that have further amplified the discussion about this. I apologise for delaying the House—not for very long, I hope—simply, in the case of both amendments, not to make any point of principle contradicting what is in the Bill, but to try to ensure that the meaning of the Bill and its intentions are as clear as we can possibly make them.

The first two amendments, Amendments 1 and 2, work together to rewrite that bit of the Bill to state that the exempt contracts would be, in this instance, where they are “wholly or mainly funded” by an international organisation, or

“funded by an international organisation of which the United Kingdom is a member to a lesser extent”—

so that funding is to a lesser extent—and is “required to be” under a procedure adopted by that international organisation. Article 15 of the CPTPP has a requirement that we want to transpose into our legislation. It states that a procurement that is not covered by individual countries’ own procurement rules would be one that is

“funded by an international organisation or foreign or international grants, loans or other assistance to which procurement procedures or conditions of the international organisation or donor apply”.

What we are looking to do in this instance is to reproduce that, so that the exemption for contracts under our Procurement Act matches what is in the CPTPP.

The government view was that the CPTPP just says “funded”, while our general approach is to try to clarify, to a greater extent, that it should say “wholly or mainly funded”—namely, more than 50%—which is consistent with what we do in relation to the rule on the general procurement agreement. However, the point that I have now reached, which I put to my noble friend via these amendments, is that it is not necessarily the case that an organisation such as the World Bank has to be a majority funder in order for its funding—and that of others with which its funding is associated, which might be other providers of grants or loans, or the recipient country in one form or another—to be required to be conducted under its procedures. That being the case, should we reflect the CPTPP rules by saying that either a procurement is “wholly or mainly funded” by the international organisation, or, if it is funded to a lesser extent, that it is required to be subject to its procedures, and that that would give rise to an exemption under our procurement rules?

That is the point of the amendment. I am sure my noble friend will appreciate the rather fine distinctions, but I wonder whether he might agree that, at the very least, we want to be absolutely clear that, if a procurement has to be conducted under the rules of an international organisation, such as the World Bank, it should be exempt from our Procurement Act requirements. I beg to move Amendment 1.

My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests, which are very clearly listed on the Lords’ register. I have interests in limited companies and companies that are active in CPTPP countries, but I do not believe there is any conflict.

Yes, my apologies. Before I begin, I would like to declare my interests, which are very clearly listed on the Lords’ register. I have interests in limited companies and other companies active in CPTPP countries, but I do not believe there is any conflict of interest in this process today.

I will also say how excited I am about being back here today to cover Report stage of the CPTPP Bill. This incredible collective of millions of people, representing trillions of pounds-worth of trade, coming together will give huge benefit to us, and I am very excited about the opportunity for this great nation to add our trading muscle to what I think will be a phenomenal collective.

Importantly, I give a great deal of thanks to noble Members of this House who have contributed so much to the painstaking work which goes into crafting a Bill of this type and ensuring we come to the right conclusions in the right way. I know there have been a large number of you, many of whom are present today, but I particularly note the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Purvis, from the Opposition Benches, for their extremely collaborative and constructive input into the debates. My noble friend Lord Lansley, who we have just heard from, brings a wealth of experience, particularly on procurement. I am very grateful for his input. My noble friends Lady McIntosh, Lord Holmes, Lady Lawlor and a number of others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, have engaged with me. We still have one more stage after Report and I will be delighted to continue engaging with any Members of this House, or indeed any groups that noble Lords think it would be useful for me to engage with.

I will also set the scene briefly for the debates we are going to have on many of these respective issues. My noble friend Lady McIntosh is in her usual place, and I apologise, because I have been trying to reach her over the last few hours, but we have not had a chance to have a discussion. I reference this point because what happens today in terms of how we trade, or how we manage our own standards in this country, does not change tomorrow. I think it is important to summarise at the beginning of this debate that acceding to CPTPP in no way derogates our standards or our ability to control our standards and, indeed, our destiny. We have been very careful to ensure that the processes are indeed very separate.

I know that we will have these debates later, but it is worth re-emphasising this important point, which I think is sometimes lost in the excitement of CPTPP—the argument that somehow our standards, import requirements and so on change, when they do not. All food and drink products imported into the UK will still have to meet the respective food safety and biosecurity standards for the UK. We are not having to change any of our food standards as a result of joining CPTPP, and it is important to emphasise on these well-discussed points that hormone-treated beef and chlorine-washed chicken are banned in the UK and will not be allowed to enter the UK market.

I am very grateful to various agencies such as the Food Standards Agency, the Trade and Agriculture Commission, the International Agreements Committee and other groups that have been extremely focused on ensuring that these facts are properly reported. I am grateful to them for the backing that they have given me in ensuring that those statements are clear.

It is also worth pointing out that CPTPP preserves the right to regulate to protect human, animal and plant life and health. The TAC report says that the CPTPP does not require the UK to change its levels of statutory protection in relation to animal or plant life or health, animal welfare or environmental protection. I am well aware that noble Lords wish to cover these issues later in this debate, but it is important to set that scene.

There is one area I would like to draw on now, in advance of these discussions, regarding palm oil. I reassure the House that liberalising palm oil tariffs with Malaysia does not undermine the UK’s environmental credentials. We remain committed to supporting the sustainable production of palm oil. In 2021, 72% of UK palm oil imports were certified as sustainable, up from 16% in 2010.

This brings me to a crucial point, which I hope will run as a theme throughout these debates. It is through free trade—through interlocution with our trading partners, and through sitting around the table with other countries to improve their terms of trade—that we have the legitimacy and the opportunity to align other countries in the world with our values that we hold so high. It is really important that noble Lords bear in mind the relevance of the various structures around CPTPP and look to the future rather than the past and how countries have operated their own standards relating to our own.

I turn to Amendments 1 and 2, tabled by my noble friend Lord Lansley. We have had a number of discussions within the department about the opportunity to tighten up the language. I am convinced of the need to ensure that there are limited mechanisms for organisations to use partial funding from international organisations to derogate their responsibilities to our own procurement responsibilities. That is very clear. As I work through this process, I am assuming that we are aligned in this great ambition, whereas my officials are very clear that my noble friend’s amendments, while no doubt drafted with the best of intentions, would not achieve this. They are also very clear about any slight changes to our wordings compared with the CPTPP wordings or standard wordings relating to our own procurement legislation, which my noble friend himself worked on. I bow absolutely to his superior knowledge of this section, but Clause 3, which deals with the schedule, clarifies that “funded” means majority funded. This is necessary to ensure that the exemption applies only to contracts under an international organisation’s procedures that are majority funded by that organisation. It is important to point that out.

The amendments would risk creating uncertainty and widening the exemption, taking more contracts out of the scope of the UK’s procurement rules than is required to fulfil the UK’s obligations under CPTPP. That is our concern. By not being clear that

“funded by an international organisation”

under CPTPP means more than 50% funded, it could be that even if an international organisation was providing a tiny amount—say, 1% of funding—to a contract under its procedures, it could be exempt from following our domestic rules on procurement, which I do not believe any member of this House would wish. We do not consider that this is the intention of the exemption in the government procurement chapter of CPTPP.

I am very comfortable having further conversations outside of this debate and am extremely supportive of the ambitions of my noble friend. However, genuinely, we have worked through this in some detail. I believe that the wording we have will ensure that, as far as possible, procurement contracts will be captured by a procurement regime in the way that we would want them to be, and as noble Lords and this House expect. I therefore ask my noble friend to withdraw Amendment 1 and not move Amendment 2.

I am most grateful to my noble friend. He explained very well why the Government want to clarify this in this way. I hope he is right, and it is wholly consistent with CPTPP, although it is not precisely the same wording—it adds additional clarification. My noble friend made typically generous remarks about those of us who have been, as he says, painstakingly working our way through the technicalities of this Bill, and I am grateful for that. Some of our noble friends and colleagues on the International Agreements Committee are elsewhere with their committee this afternoon, but I know that they will read his remarks and want to thank him very much for that.

I take my noble friend’s point that, to the extent that procurements are brought within the scope of our procurement rules, they are in line with the general procurement agreement and best practice. In so far as we can, we want to bring as many of the recipient countries of international organisations’ funding within general procurement agreement rules, so that they are following best practice. We should aim to have more countries following those rules and to operate in ways consistent with how we do things than to leave them outside.

On that basis, I understand and accept my noble friend’s points and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2 not moved.

Clause 4: Designations of origin and geographical indications

Amendment 3

Moved by

3: Clause 4, page 3, line 13, leave out “established by use” and insert “in use prior to that date”

I hope that I will be equally quick on this amendment, as there are points of more substance and principle to be debated later.

We discussed Amendment 3 in Committee. Essentially, it relates to a set of circumstances in which trademarks and GIs—geographical indications—may come into conflict and the circumstances in which the Secretary of State can make a decision that there would be confusion between the two. The point is that the GIs should be compared to existing trademarks and registered trademarks; to circumstances where, on the date which the GI is submitted, there are applications for the registration of trademarks; and, as the legislation refers to, where trademarks are “established by use”.

My problem is that nowhere in trademark legislation do the words “established by use” appear. My noble friend’s letter to me of 10 January said that “established by use” refers to unregistered trademarks. We appear to be putting into statute the concept that where a trademark has been used, it can be established but not registered, and I am not sure that that is helpful. What is more helpful would be to indicate that the Secretary of State should have a discretion to look at a GI that may come into conflict with an unregistered trademark—there are such things—and where confusion would result. My noble friend says that they may just use a trademark once, and the fact that it had been used once at some point in the past may lead to this confusion. As the legislation is drafted, the Secretary of State would actually have the discretion to judge these matters and to say whether confusion would arise. If a trademark has not been used prior to that date in any substantial way, I think the Secretary of State could ignore it and say that the GI has a meaning that people will readily understand.

I have a problem with the term “established by use” and think that “in use prior to that date” is more straight- forward and has the meaning we are looking for; “established by use” runs a risk of establishing that, in law, trademarks can be established by use. That is not something that the trademarks legislation currently admits of. I am not an expert in intellectual property matters, but I have talked to one or two who are, as we do in this place. I think there may be a problem with this, but I stand to be corrected by my noble friend. For the moment, I beg to move Amendment 3.

My Lords, I cannot claim any expertise in trademarks or their registration, but I think there is force in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. The expression “established by use” is slightly vague, whereas the words that the noble Lord would substitute—of it being actively “in use prior to that date”—make the point rather better. I support the amendment, for what it is worth, in the interests of clarity.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is right: the Trade Marks Act 1994 at no point uses the words “established by use”. However, the Act makes specific provision for registered trademarks, whereas those established by use—as the noble Lord said—would presumably be unregistered and, therefore, subject to common law through the concept of passing off. It would be interesting to hear the Minister’s comments on passing off and whether that covers it.

I want to pick up the main point of this amendment and, specifically, geographical indications. I think this may be the only time on Report that we will be able to get some words into Hansard on that. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, picked up the technical part, but there is a wider set of issues on geographical indications on which I am interested to hear the Minister’s response.

When this agreement was announced in October 2020, the then Trade Secretary Liz Truss MP promised that 77 specialist UK food and drink products would be guaranteed protected geographical indication status, along with the seven that were carried over from the previous EU-Japan trade deal. The former DIT Minister said that the protections would be in place by May 2021 for all 77 new products, which included many iconic British brands, such as Scottish beef, Cornish pasties and Welsh lamb—to name but a few. The DIT also boasted that, thanks to Liz Truss’s agreement, the UK would benefit from fast-track processes for securing brand protection that would not have been possible under the EU-Japan deal. It said:

“The EU must negotiate each new GI individually on a case-by-case basis”.

The EU has added 84 extra products to its protected list since October 2020, including a number in the last few months, but I understand that Kemi Badenoch’s department has not yet secured brand protection for a single one of the 77 products originally promised. The number of EU GIs with Japan now stands at 299, which offers them protection, while the UK is still stuck with only the seven protected products inherited from the EU-Japan deal. Given this, how can UK producers of geographically indicated products be confident in the measures contained within the CPTPP?

Perhaps I might add something before the Minister speaks. Having listened with interest to my noble and learned friend Lord Hope, and with my limited intellectual property knowledge, I am concerned about the use of the words “established by use”. As far as I know, they do not appear elsewhere and are certainly not part of existing legislation. To bring them into this legislation, almost by a side wind, would be somewhat unfortunate.

As always, I thank my noble friend Lord Lansley and all contributors to the debate on this amendment. It is very relevant, in my view; however, I am comfortable keeping the words “established by use” in the Bill as printed, rather than using

“in use prior to that date”.

My reason is simple and was pointed out by my noble friend: a single use of a name could be construed as giving the same protections as a trademark which, through an effective accumulation of good will and the establishment of its use, has been protected under these laws. We are quite comfortable with the wording.

I am aware that there is no reference to the concept of “established by use” in the Trade Marks Act 1994— I am surprised that there is no lawyer in this House jumping up to support me at this crucial moment, just when I need one. They seem not to be in their usual places but they would say, were they here, that this is an extremely well-established part of trademarks law. As I understand it—I am comfortable to be corrected, but my officials assure me of this—elsewhere, in the amended legislation relating to unregistered trademarks, is the common-law tort of passing off, which relates to good will. I am also reassured that in GI legislation—for example, Article 14(2) of the assimilated regulation 1151/ 2012—the concept of “established by use” is written and codified.

From our point of view, it is important to ensure that we protect our trademarks and that we use geographical indicators where appropriate. I will come on to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, in a moment. Having spent a great deal of time working on this, I ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment because I do not believe that by changing the phraseology we will give the greater protection that we want to our trademark-using organisations, businesses and people, and allow the system to function effectively. I am very convinced of that. We have a line in our next amendment that will allow us to discuss geographical indicators in slightly more detail, so I will cover the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, at that point if he is content with that.

I am grateful to all who took part in this very short debate, and in particular to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for their contributions on the legal aspects.

Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to look at the reference my noble friend refers to elsewhere in the GI regulations. That was not an aspect of this to which he referred in his letter of 10 January. He referred to the concept of the tort of passing off as a justification for it. My problem was that putting something in a statute that is justified by reference to a common-law definition seems problematic, since one might be assumed to be trying to create a statutory definition. I did not think the definition existed; I may be proved wrong about that.

I am just hopeful that it is not the case that one use of an unregistered trademark before the date of a GI means that it is established by use. It must be defined somewhere else and I hope that that is what my noble friend is suggesting—that “established by use” in relation to a GI is somewhere codified and defined. That would establish a degree of protection, and I hope we do not subsequently encounter circumstances in which the inclusion of this language causes a problem in relation to those who are responsible for distinguishing between registered and unregistered trademarks.

I remember, and my noble friend will recall from the debate we had in Committee, that we set out to secure GI recognition in the UK-Japan economic partnership agreement. We need to get on with it. Equally, in the UK-Australia deal we set out to secure protection for our GI indications. But it was made clear in the Australia deal that we would do so only in so far as, and to the extent that, the European Union secured protection for its GIs, and I am not sure that we have made the progress there that we should have.

These are very important aspects of our potential trade advantage and, if we are going to maximise our trade benefits, we need our geographical indications to be protected and we need to be using them in export markets. I should declare my registered interest as co-chair of the UK-Japan 21st Century Group. I will be in Japan at the beginning of next month and I will make it my business to ask about what progress we, and they, are making in protecting our GIs in Japan. For the moment, we thank my noble friend—

Before the noble Lord sits down, I am unaccustomed to supporting the Minister in these areas, as he and the House are aware, but, having glanced at, regulation 2019/787, regarding the relationship between trademarks and geographical indicators, does indeed have the definition of “established by use”. I am not a lawyer, as I very willingly admit, but if the Government have had the good sense to transpose what we had in the EU legislation into domestic legislation, then that might satisfy the noble Lord.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, and it may indeed satisfy me as long as we do not abolish it any time soon. With all those helpful comments from noble Lords, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 3.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Amendment 4

Moved by

4: Clause 4, page 3, line 24, at end insert—

“1B. In a case where the protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication has been the subject of an application for approval of an amendment to the product specification under Article 53 which resulted in a change to the protected name, the reference in paragraph 1A to the application for registration under Article 49 is to be read as a reference to the application for approval of the amendment to the name under Article 49 as applied by Article 53(2) (or, in a case where there has been more than one such application, the latest of those).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment clarifies the test for cancelling a protected designation of origin or geographical indication where the registered name has been the subject of a name change application; a cancellation will be possible only if the grounds for cancellation existed at the date of the name change application (rather than the date of the original application for registration).

My Lords, Amendment 4 is a minor technical amendment that the Government have introduced. I will read out my brief to be clear, because it is quite technical. The Bill as currently drafted may lead to a degree of uncertainty for decision-makers over the date that should be used when assessing whether the new grounds for cancellation of a geographical indication apply in a case where the GI has successfully undergone a name change. Under the current drafting, it could be argued that, in such a case, the date on which the original application to register the GI was submitted under Article 49 of Regulation 1151/2012 should be the date used to carry out the assessment and not the date when the name change application under Article 53 was submitted. This amendment addresses that uncertainty by making it clear that the assessment should be carried out based on the factual position relating to the date when the name change application was submitted, rather than the date the original Article 49 application was submitted.

I will translate that a little. The provision is effectively looking at the date on which the name change is submitted, rather than the original name. If I have a GI—“Johnson’s Water” or whatever it may be—registered in 1990 and then change the name to “Lord Johnson’s Water” this year, then the reference would be made to the point at which the name change application was made, rather than the status at the time of the original GI. It is a clarification which we think is important, and I trust my officials’ view on that.

I will just answer briefly the very helpful comments raised about Japan and geographical indicators. I would be extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for making representation to the authorities in Japan to speed the process up. We are fully committed to ensuring that our GIs are protected in Japan; it is part of the agreements we have undertaken, but these things take time to effect. We are doing everything we can to be sure that those indicators are protected. Anything that he can do to speed that process up will be gratefully received by this Government. I beg to move.

My Lords, as we have heard, this government Amendment 4 is really a relatively minor and technical amendment, so there is not much to add, except for some questions we hope the Minister will respond to. How often do the Government expect this test to be utilised, and are there any potential ramifications they will come across? What happens if the name change application is not successful—is that a possibility? Finally, if a name changes from a geographical indication into a generic term, does this amendment apply?

I thank the noble Lord for that point. I am very comfortable having a more detailed discussion about GIs in principle. It is worth noting that many countries, including those in the CPTPP, do not have necessary GI processes. Sadly, too few do, so there is a great push on behalf of this Government to ensure that we advance the cause of geographical indicators to ensure that our rights are protected. It is correct that it is possible for a name change to be rejected; it is a process that takes time, as with any intellectual property issue. It is a detailed and thorough process to ensure that we can be comfortable that names, trademarks, GIs and so on are properly protected, and the research has been done. It can be six months or it can be a year, which is why we have built in this provision to ensure that it is the point of application rather than the point of approval that the data is referring to. That makes sense.

There have not been any cancellations of GIs undertaken by this Government, or indeed recently. I will check that, but I hope I am accurate; if I am not, I will certainly correct myself in the Library. The question from the noble Lord is about whether this is something that happens regularly, and is a constant and ongoing issue. Maybe there have been one or two exceptional examples but as far as I am aware, it is a relatively straightforward process; it seems quite uncontentious so far.

These regulations simplify the processes in respect of how we operate with the CPTPP. Often, we look at the activities that will take place in this country, which is right. How to protect our own GIs is what we are working on domestically. Really, this allows us to export the whole principle of geographical indicators—the wonderful concepts of Scottish salmon and Scottish whisky, to name just two enormously important and well-branded products. It allows us to work with our partner countries in the CPTPP to ensure that those brands and concepts are well protected, because a GI does not give us any strength unless it is domestically registered and the domestic legal system respects these principles. I therefore hope very much that the House will support me on this technical amendment and on the principle that it projects.

Amendment 4 agreed.

Amendment 5

Moved by

5: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—

“Report: accession of the People’s Republic of China to the CPTPP(1) Before any decision is made by the Government of the United Kingdom on the accession of the People’s Republic of China to the CPTPP under Chapter 30 of the CPTPP, the Secretary of State must publish a report assessing the impact of China’s accession on the United Kingdom.(2) Both Houses of Parliament must be presented with a motion for resolution on the report under subsection (1).”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment seeks to allow for parliamentary scrutiny of the prospective accession of the People’s Republic of China to the CPTPP - the Government of which has already applied to join, and whose application is to be considered. Scrutiny of future accessions is not provided for in the bill or through the CRaG process.

My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships’ House for giving me the opportunity to address this issue again. It is an amendment which I laid before Committee, and it was very ably moved there by the noble Lord, Lord Leong. I was grateful to him for doing that. I also thank the Minister, who was good enough to have a meeting with me only last week to discuss the terms of the amendment to see if any agreement could be reached. I should also express my thanks to the co-sponsors of what is an all-party amendment: the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, who is on his way from Cumbria but hopes to be here before the conclusion of the debate; we shall see. I also heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that this is something that the Greens support, and I see that a letter has been sent to Conservative colleagues today by the former leader of the Conservative Party Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP. He says that the amendment remedies the problem in a proportionate way that goes with the grain of government policy.

What is the problem that we are trying to solve? That is what I want to address. When the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Purvis, made excellent interventions from their respective Front Benches in Committee, they underlined the need for parliamentary scrutiny. That is what this amendment is all about. It is straightforward and non-binding on the Government, but it enables both Houses of Parliament to debate, vote and give their advice on an issue of considerable importance involving geopolitics, strategic dependency and national security.

For the purpose of transparency, I should refer to my non-financial interest in the register that I have been sanctioned by the People’s Republic of China, along with six other parliamentarians, including the current Security Minister, a former leader of the Conservative Party, and a current Minister from the department of the noble Lord, Lord Johnson, Nusrat Ghani MP. Of course, in your Lordships’ House, my colleague the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, has been sanctioned too. In my case, it was for speaking out against the Uighur genocide, the use of Uighur slave labour in Xinjiang, the destruction of Hong Kong’s democracy and the incarceration of more than 1,700 pro-democracy supporters, including the British citizen and businessman Jimmy Lai, a case that I raised earlier today with the Foreign Secretary. Therefore, I guess that I am not agnostic about the PRC and its mendacity.

As I indicated in a recent debate, I believe that our parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, reflecting the work of this House’s own International Relations and Defence Select Committee and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, was right to warn us of the dangers posed by the People’s Republic of China. In truth, the Government have still not resolved the problem of what the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, calls “cakeism”. He used that word in evidence to our International Relations and Defence Select Committee. What he meant by that was that we wanted to deepen our trade links—something that the noble Lord, Lord Johnson, pursues with great alacrity—but simultaneously we want to identify the threats and challenges to our security, including infiltration and subversion of institutions, even CCP spies operating across Parliament. This amendment would provide parliamentarians with the opportunity to probe whether the Government have acted with due regard to questions of national security and our long-term interests.

To be clear, as an admirer of Richard Cobden, I believe in free trade. It is generally a force for good but, as Cobden himself noted in his opposition to both the slave trade and the opium trade, it is not to be practised without regard to other considerations. His outstanding opposition to the moneyed interests that profiteered from the misery of the iniquitous opium trade led to a major debate in Parliament in the 19th century. It lasted for several days. With the combined efforts across the House at that time of the young Disraeli and Gladstone, it led to a parliamentary victory that upended government support for the trade. Given the long-term consequences of the opium trade for the UK’s standing in China and the Far East, it is a pity that they were not listened to earlier.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I support the principles that underpin the CPTPP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and I support the Bill. But, as a parliamentarian, I believe we have a right to be heard on the subject of the accession of the PRC to the CPTPP. This is not merely hypothetical. The People’s Republic of China applied to join in 2021 and is the next country in line. It is not possible, as the noble Lord suggested to me when we met, for Parliament be able to vote on this under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—CRaG, as it is often known. Regrettably, that process cannot be applied to future accessions to a treaty that has already been entered into and is in force. It was an issue which the House highlighted during the debates on the genocide amendment to the Trade Act.

What other arguments might be deployed against this amendment? First, it specifically applies to China. Yes, because China and the CCP present unique challenges. Let us imagine for a moment that a new golden era dawns and that, instead of threatening Taiwan with an invasion, the PRC decides to emulate it and to introduce the sort of multiparty politics that led to the election of President-elect Lee last Sunday. Let us assume for a moment that Chairman Xi Jinping runs for election in a free and fair election. That certainly would change the situation and would mean that this hypothetical would never have to come into force.

But it is more likely that the PRC will continue to threaten or maybe invade Taiwan, continue to be in breach of the Sino-British treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” democracy and continue to carry out genocide and use Uighur slave labour in Xinjiang. It is uniquely accused by resolution of the House of Commons of perpetrating genocide in Xinjiang, and serious human rights abuses continue to be embedded in PRC supply chains. So China is not a likeminded CPTPP partner. It has made clear its intention to replace the despised liberal, open and rules-based order by authoritarian hegemony. If it is admitted to the CPTPP, it would be the largest economy and the dominant actor and could block the future accession of other democracies. China has the largest economy by a mile. It accounts for 53% of global GDP and 30% of trade.

Secondly, PRC entry would add to dependency and diminished resilience, with the dangers we saw during Covid and the dangers Europe has experienced during the war in Ukraine. Imagine how membership would enable it to withstand sanctions in the event of an invasion of Taiwan. Thirdly, those with vested interests argue that PRC membership would be a driver for economic and political reform in that country. It has not done so so far, and nor would it do so in the future. Believing that is like believing in Alice in Wonderland. China’s membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council has not changed its attitude towards breaches of human rights the world over.

Fourthly, Ministers say that this is hypothetical. The PRC applied to join in 2021 and is next in line to be considered. It has been lobbying hard. Now is the time to make it clear that, although the United Kingdom Parliament may not be able to block accession, we will miss no opportunity to signal and speak about the consequences.

Fifthly, I have already explained why CRaG would not give both Houses a debate and a vote, but, despite the Minister’s protestation that this is an innovation being proposed in this amendment—heaven forbid—that is not entirely the case. Free trade agreements and bilateral agreements are often subject to parliamentary approval. In 2021, in response to the criticism of CRaG, the Grimstone rule, named for the noble Lord’s predecessor, was introduced. It allows for debate when the International Agreements Committee has published a report. This is also an, albeit inadequate, provision based on my amendment to the Trade Act, which would allow for an FTA—a free trade agreement—to be considered where genocide has been alleged.

None of this applies in the case of a plurilateral trade agreement involving a state that is accused of being in breach of the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide. CRaG would not require the Government to produce an impact assessment, nor allow, crucially, as this amendment does, for a parliamentary vote.

The movers are not seeking to change the long-standing United Kingdom policy not to tie the Government’s hands on trade. Whatever one may think about that, it is not what this amendment does. It does not tie the hands of the Government. Hence the amendment is not binding, but it does allow Parliament—this place and another place—to speak and to vote. This is in accord with Article 30.4 of the CPTPP, which says that accession may be subject to

“applicable legal procedures of each Party and acceding State or separate customs territory”.

So this amendment is compatible with the CPTPP. It is compatible with government policy and, indeed, I would argue, with the best traditions of parliamentary scrutiny, oversight and accountability.

Many of us were privileged this morning to be at the memorial service for a late Member of this House, the revered Baroness Boothroyd. I served under Baroness Boothroyd when she was Speaker in another place. She was quoted this morning, in the memorial service, as giving advice to parliamentarians to always stand up for the principle of free speech, whatever the price may be—to always stand up for free speech and ensure that the privileges of parliamentarians are not undermined. This amendment would allow Parliament to speak. It would allow Parliament to vote. It would be in the best traditions of parliamentary scrutiny, oversight and accountability.

We are not alone in thinking that this needs to be addressed. This is what the Japanese Minister of Finance said:

“China ... is far removed from the free, fair and highly transparent world of the CPTPP; the chances that it can join are close to zero”.

Why? Because it disregards labour law. It disregards environmental obligations. It would be unable to meet CPTPP data transfer obligations and standards—a point the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Purvis, made in Committee. It would certainly block Taiwan’s participation. It will continue to act coercively and against the interests of the free world. Its track record at the United Nations and at the WTO shows that it is derelict in embracing the values of those organisations and the values that this House stands for.

Maybe it is understandable that, 20 years ago when it joined the WTO, we were prepared to give the PRC the benefit of the doubt. But, like the Bourbons, we have learned nothing if we still think we can give it the benefit of the doubt. Today is an opportunity for Parliament to stand up for its rights to be able to speak on these issues, and to be able to vote to do so as well. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support this amendment. I should declare a number of matters. One is that I am the director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and we have taken quite strong positions with regard to China’s abuses of human rights, particularly in recent years with regard to the persecution of the Uighurs and in relation to its behaviour and conduct with regard to Hong Kong and its breach of the Sino- British agreement.

I declare also that I am the chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, which is proud to have among its professors Laura Murphy, an American who lives here in Britain with her husband and who is one of the most well-recognised experts in the field of forced labour.

Professor Murphy’s work on China has been extraordinary. Others in this House who have read it will be aware of the depth of her work and the reliability of her research, which has informed the State Department in the United States and has been used by government departments here. Her work shows that forced labour is part of the problem of contemporary China. It is certainly part of the problem of the abuses of the Uighur people.

I support this amendment. Most of us in this House would agree that we have to avoid any dependence on authoritarian states. It is for that reason that some of us have deep concerns about not having the opportunity in future to scrutinise the ways in which China might be embraced in some of the multilateral—plurilateral—institutions, which it is very assiduously seeking in our contemporary world. The China of today is not the China that joined the World Trade Organization 20 years ago, as described by my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

China is displaying, under the presidency of President Xi, that it is seeking regional hegemony. The belt and road programme has shown the extent to which it has created an indebtedness among many nations which is then reflected in other things. We saw it happening recently in the motion that was placed before the United Nations General Assembly in relation to the crime of aggression committed by Russia with regard to Ukraine. We saw it in the vote that was taken on that issue, with all those countries that are indebted to China and that are in its purview because of the ways in which it has been involved in the building of infrastructure and so on across Africa and other places. I am afraid it is an example of that long arm affecting issues that should concern all of us, such as an illegal war. The extent to which China is seeking to enlarge its hegemony should be a source of concern to all of us.

I am not a hawk with regard to China. I believe that we must continue to have dialogue and that it is fruitful to have dialogue. However, we should be very cautious about being drawn into something which will give opportunities to a nation that is not respectful of that rules-based order which was being discussed earlier today. It is being very inventive and innovative in the breaking of the rules that we thought should apply to all nations.

The arguments have been very well made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton—the importance of us having the opportunity to debate, scrutinise and raise issues that are not known to everyone, particularly with regard to the abuses of human rights. We like to imagine that engagement can lead to a raising of standards. At the moment that does not seem to be happening with regard to China. We have been seeing it, as was just referred to, in what is happening with the introduction of national security laws and so on that are being used against trading people such as Jimmy Lai, a great entrepreneur himself. So I endorse and adopt the arguments that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

I just mention that in applying to join the CPTPP there can be exceptions allowed and one of them is national security. When I see national security being referred to as a potential reason why there might be some opt-outs for some of the commitments one would expect in any agreement, it worries me because of what we have seen China doing with its national security law that it has been using in Hong Kong.

I adopt the arguments that have been made. I press the House to agree that this is a very sensible amendment. It is not asking very much; it is asking us to do what we normally do, which is to scrutinise and question some of the things that might be being done by our Government.

My Lords, I received the email from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, trying to persuade me to support the amendment, and I must say that I am very reluctant to do so. The fact is that all trade agreements are a compromise. That is one reason why there is no veto in Parliament over a trade agreement—you would start to unpick the whole thing if Parliament objected to some aspect of a trade agreement —and there is no reason why we should want to change that now.

The other point is that the real prize for the CPTPP would be not the membership of China but the membership of the United States. It is clear that neither country wants to join at the moment, for particular reasons, but the agreement is going to last a very long time, and there may well come a moment when things change in China and the threat of China joining might well force the United States to join in order to keep China out. So we do not want to tie any Government’s hands on this in any way. We have to bear in mind that if the United States was to join the CPTPP, it really would become a massive trading bloc, and that prize would be well worth achieving.

My Lords, while I have enormous sympathy with the purpose of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, he has explained perfectly clearly that the CPTPP members would all have to agree not just that China would join the CPTPP but that a negotiation with China would be entered into. The benchmarks against which that would be measured are laid out in an annexe to the CPTPP, and there is a great distance between where China is today and the benchmarks that would have to be met, so I see no immediate process for that.

The terms of the amendment, in creating a different legal process for the accession of one potential applicant economy as compared with any other applicant economy, represent an unwelcome position for us to have taken. It might be construed as unwelcome in other countries as well; it seems to me that it would set a bad precedent. The question that would be put to the Government is what position we should take as to whether a commission should be established to look at an aspirant economy, and the United Kingdom Government could take a position on that. While I join my noble friend in resisting the amendment, it would be helpful if he could say that there was nothing to stop the Government from potentially laying a Statement under CRaG for that purpose and asking the relevant committees to comment on it.

That would not enable Parliament to veto it—indeed, a veto would be unwelcome at that stage because it would be a decision whether or not to enter into a negotiation—but, as in other cases, the Government would be well advised to take full account of what Parliament might say in relation to any such notification and any such report by the International Agreements Committee here and the Business and Trade Committee in the other place. I wonder whether my noble friend might suggest that, if there were such a potential decision to be made by the UK Government, they could go through that process and it would be perfectly reasonable for them to do so.

My Lords, I am sympathetic to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I approach it from a somewhat different angle, on which he himself touched, which is the use of economic tools to gain hegemony geographically. We are talking about the wide area of influence that China already commands, not just in the Indo-Pacific. Already 20% of Chinese goods are destined for CPTPP countries; 50% of them are intermediate products. Of those countries, Malaysia, Vietnam and Mexico have the highest level of imports from China. When we join, that figure will go up because 13% of our imports come from China.

Whatever the outcome of the decision on this amendment, I urge the Government to consider very carefully some arrangement so that there can be collaboration between Parliament and government on the very important business aim of the UK, which is to prevent economic tools being used against UK interests, including those to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred.

My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and did so very happily. I will comment on a couple of points that have been raised in this short debate and then, without adding to what I said in Committee, highlight the reason why strategic debates about the UK’s trading relationship with China are important.

One of the reasons I was attracted to my party was that the Liberals were part of the founding movement for free trade. At that time, we traded with China and we will trade with China in the future, but this is a debate not about trading with China but about the UK’s resilience and our strategic trade interests. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, made the point that Parliament’s role is not to assess trade negotiations or assess whether China would meet the benchmarks for accession to the CPTPP. His argument was rejected by his noble friend Lord Lansley, who came to the conclusion that China is a long way from meeting the benchmarks. I cannot second-guess what the other members of the CPTPP will say, and nor can we hold them to account, but we can hold our Government to account for the assessments that they make. There will have to be a public process because the difference—I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton—is that China’s accession is less of a negotiation; it is an accession process, which is different from a bilateral FTA process. On that issue of substance, it is quite different.

The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, also said that it would be wrong if we sought, by approving this amendment, somehow to provide a veto or to bind Ministers’ hands. It would not be a veto: there is nothing in the amendment that would allow it to be a veto. I refer also to the comments of his noble friend Lord Lansley, who said that there would be nothing to stop the Government bringing a report anyway. Opposing something that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, suggested was in the Government’s interest to do is a bit of a stretch, but the Government have the ability to present a report, and this amendment says that they should. We have argued consistently for this in the Trade Act and on other trade negotiations.

The reason why China is particularly important, as was alluded to by the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, is not just the scale of the UK’s trade with China but how resilient we are in relation to it. It is absolutely right that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised the issue of Taiwan. I have just written to the President-elect, whose DPP is a sister party of ours on these Benches, to congratulate him on a remarkable victory. UK trade interests with Taiwan and shipping coming from that area are of critical importance. It is not just that British consumers enjoy the benefit of buying Chinese products, but we have the biggest trade deficit in goods with one country in our nation’s history. The trade deficit of £40 billion with China comes at a time when the whole narrative of UK government policy is that we would do trade with other countries in Asia, not China, that would offset any theoretical reduction with trade with Europe. We know that is not the case; it has proven harder to replicate the trading arrangements that we had with our European partners with those in Asia. We also know that the growth in trade in Asian economies, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor, said, is because of their trading relationship with China. We cannot have it both ways.

If there is anything that suggests why we should have more of a strategic debate about how resilient the UK is when we have the biggest trade deficit of any nation on earth with China—I remind the House that Germany has a trade surplus in the export of goods to China—it is last Friday’s actions by the Royal Air Force. The shipping of goods from China, which we depend on for our consumers, comes through the very area where we have deployed military assets in the last few days, which we discussed last night in this House. It is in our geopolitical and strategic trading interests that Parliament debates our relationship with China. Given the potential for interventions in our trading and shipping through the Red Sea and through Suez, interruptions to our trading through the Taiwan Strait or other interruptions—because China can, without notice, change its national security profile and how it seeks to impact on a country such as the UK—we are uniquely vulnerable to another nation state’s decisions about its strategic position on exporting to the UK.

On the one hand, one might argue that the more that China being more of a part of the rules-based WTO mechanisms is in our interest—that is right, but it is a separate debate. Here, we are discussing how our Parliament will hold any Government to account for decisions that they may take on an assessment of whether it is in our strategic interests to support China acceding to the CPTPP. Asking for a report and for it to be debated in Parliament is the very least that could be asked for, and I hope that will not cause any big division across the House. We should all support this, and the Government should perhaps accept the need for a report and a debate in Parliament. That is what this amendment seeks to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is to be commended for this amendment. I will briefly develop one point made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy, who referred to the work of Sheffield Hallam University on trade, which I have read in considerable detail and previously raised in this House. That work clearly shows that, while China is one of the world’s biggest growers of cotton, it is also the world’s greatest cotton launderer, hiding where its cotton products are grown by laundering them around the world. The work at Sheffield Hallam has shown this, and, as a result, the Americans stopped importing the cotton.

As I have said previously, the Government have taken no action whatever to check the source of the cotton, but it is possible to do so. A lot of the cotton in China is grown in the Uighur area—this is a slave labour issue. I say to noble Lords, and to ladies and gentlemen, that any cotton in the clothes they are wearing at the moment can be analysed to show where it was grown and whether this was in Xinjiang or in another part of China or Egypt or somewhere else. Paper-based monitoring systems are worthless simply because China is hell-bent on laundering the cotton in its products and hiding where it comes from. Therefore, although we talk about free trade, it is not free trade if you are laundering your cotton to hide where it has come from. The Government have repeatedly been asked to do something about the products they buy on behalf of the British public. Have they used any of the element-analysis processes organised by Oritain to check the source of their cotton? The answer is no.

They have never taken any steps whatever to source the cotton and see whether it was grown in Xinjiang or not. Is that because we do not care about the use of slave labour or the source of materials? Well, I think we should and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has given the House a further opportunity for this issue to be raised.

My Lords, on the whole I tend to support the idea of having one’s sparring partners join the club, because there is then a way to communicate. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, made this point. Communication is incredibly important, such as through cultural and sporting exchange.

However, the points made by my noble friend Lord Alton seem to me to rather trump that consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, said that we would be making an exception in the case of this country. But why would we make an exception? I suggest that the answer lies in my noble friend’s point that the country has behaved exceptionally and therefore that we have to take that into account.

Finally, I say that we must learn from the Post Office affair, for example, which we will come on to, that we can never probe enough—we need to look at things in depth, especially something such as this where there are clearly areas that we could consider more thoroughly. I repeat what the noble Lord said: this is a plea to look further. It is not doing anything else at this stage. It asks the Government to allow us to look further at something that has considerable consequences.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for presenting this amendment calling on the Secretary of State to publish a report assessing the potential impact of China’s accession to the CPTPP on the United Kingdom and saying that both Houses of Parliament must be presented with a Motion for resolution on the said report.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, indicated earlier, we on this side of the House would have preferred this amendment to cover all new accession countries—but for the purposes of this amendment I will refer just to China. Several noble Lords spoke in Committee on the case for this amendment and I do not propose to repeat what was said. However, I will make noble Lords aware of China’s non-market trade practices and its history of using economic coercion against CPTPP members, which must be considered in any valuation of its prospective accession.

First, there are aggressive military exercises and drills in the Taiwan Strait that threaten peace and stability in the South China Sea. This could be destabilising to regional trade. In addition, China has ongoing territorial disputes with other CPTPP members, including Japan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. Its willingness to use coercion against countries that disagree with it has often strained relationships with several CPTPP members. For example, it halted imports of Canadian canola and meat products in response to the arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver. Japan was denied access to rare earth materials in 2010 and Australian exports have suffered from Chinese import bans. Furthermore, several CPTPP member states have expressed concerns that China’s subsidies of state-owned firms and arbitrary application laws would be likely to make it hard for the country to join the trade pact.

I wanted to quote two examples, but the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned the Japanese State Minister, so I will leave it at that and bring in another example of our very own British CPTPP trade negotiator, Graham Zebedee. Without commenting specifically on China’s application, if a country’s economic rules are really quite far apart from what CPTPP says, inevitably there is quite a big question about whether they could undertake really massive reforms. These concerns alone seem to provide sound justification for the commissioning of a report and Motion for resolution, as required by this amendment, so that both Houses of Parliament have the opportunity to fully consider the case for and against China’s accession to the trading bloc.

Recent newspaper reports have shown the lengths to which President Xi will go to crack down on companies when strengthening his control of the economy. Business leaders in China are under immense pressure. Last year, more than a dozen top executives from sectors including technology, finance and real estate went missing, faced detention or were accused of corruption practices. China’s national security law, as mentioned by my noble friend Lady Kennedy, is dangerously vague and broad. Virtually anything could be deemed a threat to national security under its provision and it can be applied to anyone on this planet. This law has provided little or no protection to people targeted. Lawyers, scholars, journalists, pastors and NGO workers have all been convicted of national security offences, simply for exercising their freedom of expression and defending human rights. Business leaders may face the same treatment.

China’s current policies and practices are at odds with many of the provisions and requirements of the CPTPP, and it is unlikely to be able to conform to them unless current members agree to significant concessions in the negotiations. This is why concerns about coercion are particularly relevant. Without considerable concessions, it is hard to see how China would qualify for accession. Equally, China is highly unlikely to make the changes to its laws and regulatory systems that would be required to gain the acceptance of CPTPP.

We are obviously sympathetic to the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others in support of this amendment. However, there is not yet any agreement for any other country to join the partnership. It would be improper to single out any one of the possible new members at this stage, including China. At Second Reading and in Committee, we put on record our strong concern about China’s human rights record, but we believe that our human rights concerns should be universal and that one country should not be singled out. Should the noble Lord, Lord Alton, decide to divide the House on this amendment, we will abstain.

My Lords, I am grateful for this debate and I have the greatest respect for my noble friend Lord Alton, who, over the years, has demonstrated his significant level of passion on this very important matter, as have many other noble Lords today. I do not want to deviate from the important points I wish to make relating to this CPTPP Bill, so forgive me if I do not necessarily answer all the questions that have been presented in relation to some of the topics raised. However, I would like to say, very importantly, that I clearly personally strongly reject the sanctioning of our parliamentarians. We have made it very clear before that China’s attempts to silence those highlighting human rights violations at home and abroad, including, and specifically, their targeting of MPs and Peers here in the UK, are unwarranted and unacceptable. I begin discussion on this amendment with that very important statement.

I turn to the debate around the CPTPP. As I have made clear throughout the last few stages of this Bill, in joining CPTPP, we are securing our place in a network of countries that are committed to free and rules-based trade, which has the potential to be a global standard setter. CPTPP acts as a gateway to the dynamic and fast-growing Indo-Pacific region and delivers on last year’s integrated review refresh to continue to enhance our relationships in that region. I stress this point, which was raised, I believe, by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. Expansion of this agreement’s membership will only bring further opportunities for British businesses and consumers.

On potential new accessions, there are currently six economies with applications to join the group: China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Ukraine. China’s application, alongside the applications of the other five economies, is at the outset of the application process and has certainly not been determined. As noble Lords are already aware, the CPTPP is a group of 11 parties and will become 12 when the UK accedes, and decisions must be taken by consensus of the CPTPP parties. However, it has been agreed within the group that applicant economies must also meet three important criteria: they must meet the high standards of the agreement; they have to have demonstrated a pattern of complying with their trade commitments; and they must command consensus of the CPTPP parties. These are very strong criteria, and I hope that all Peers on all sides of the House hear this very clearly.

As a new member of the CPTPP group, it is right that we work within the principles of the group to achieve a consensus decision, rather than give our own individual narrative on each applicant, such as through the report proposed in this amendment. My kinsman and noble friend Lord Hamilton made a very strong point in support of that. As I indicated previously, the UK is already closely involved in discussions on this topic but will have a formal power to oppose an application only post-ratification. It is therefore crucial that we ratify the agreement and become a party, so that we can work with CPTPP members decisively on each current and future application. I stress that to be drawn in on individual applicants now, ahead of the UK becoming a party to the agreement, could risk significant repercussions to our own ratification, which is why this is such a sensitive and important issue.

The UK becoming a party of the CPTPP is dependent on CPTPP parties individually choosing to ratify the UK’s accession, so it is not in our interests to step outside the group on such a sensitive issue. As I have been clear throughout our debates, we must join first so that we are on the inside judging other applications, not vice versa. It is therefore crucial that the UK ratifies the agreement, which will in turn trigger other ratifications that will allow us to become a party.

I want to be clear that our own accession working group was successful because we are demonstrably a high-standards economy with a strong track record, we made a market access offer of the highest standard, and we garnered the support of every party for our accession. Our accession process has set a strong precedent: the robust experience the UK has been through has reinforced the high standards and proved the bar is not easy to meet.

Comments were raised about state-owned enterprises. I will give noble Lords an anecdote from the negotiating team, as I understand it. We received a great degree of scrutiny over the relationship between Channel 4 and the Government, which few people, I think, would necessarily equate with the concept of a state-owned enterprise. I hope that that demonstrates the sort of inquiry that was behind our own accession.

I also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and everyone else who participated in this debate, that the accession of new parties after the UK has joined will entail a change in the rights and obligations of existing parties. Any new agreement requiring ratification by the UK would therefore be subject to the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. So, if he will allow me, I push back against the noble Lord and his suggestion—I think the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also suggested it—that there is no track for the CRaG process to be triggered should a new party be able or about to accede to the CPTPP.

The Minister made an important point, so I will press him on it, as I did during the meeting we had with officials. Can he confirm that the CRaG process does not provide for a vote in either House of Parliament?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, but, if he will allow me, I will continue with my comments on what this process will involve. As noble Lords are aware, the CRaG process requires that the treaty text and an Explanatory Memorandum be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days before ratification can take place. Under CRaG, either House can resolve against ratification of a relevant treaty within the 21 sitting days of the treaty being laid before Parliament. The House of Commons can continue, indefinitely, to resolve against ratification, in effect giving the Commons the power to block ratification. I hope that that answers the noble Lord’s question.

These are clearly quite dramatic actions to take on behalf of both Houses in relation to the CRaG process, but the point is that the levers are available. While there is no explicit up/down vote built into the CRaG process, there are multiple ways in which a debate can be brought to the Floor of the House. Should it be the will of the House to have a substantive debate, I am sure that Parliament would ensure that it would occur. I believe that that is referred to as the Grimstone principle.

My Lords, on a point of clarification, the Minister told us that it would be wrong for a country to comment on another country’s application and gave reasons for that to be the case, but the Government sought in our application support from other countries, and indeed welcomed Japan’s public comments that it would welcome UK accession. Why did we previously seek and welcome support from other countries for our application if the Government are now saying it would be dangerous if we made any comment about China’s potential application?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, but it may surprise him to know that we are not yet fully acceded or party to CPTPP. As soon as we are, it is absolutely right that we make comment on other countries, but only after the process and we have joined. To include an amendment in the Bill now would be completely inappropriate, as I hope I have made clear. I think it would cause significant issues in this overall process.

I return to the point on which it is important to reassure the House. The House is looking for reassurance about whether any country can be sneaked under the wire to join CPTPP, and the clear answer is that it cannot. We have made clear commitments to clarify the process from the Dispatch Box to ensure that we know, as Members of this House and of the other place, that there will be a robust process around any new party joining CPTPP.

I am very grateful to the Minister, but I am trying to get clarity to see whether we need to divide the House. He has not answered the question I asked. He has said that there could be a process by which there could be a debate on the Floor of the House if the Government permitted it. All that would be welcome, if it was permitted. My question was whether such a Motion would be divisible. Would there be a chance for Members of both Houses to vote? When I asked that question during the course of our meeting, the answer I was given was no.

I thank the noble Lord for his comment but I feel he is being slightly unfair to me. I am describing the CRaG process, and the Grimstone principle makes clear what will happen if there is a desire for a debate and parliamentary time allows—I am obliged to use those caveats, as your Lordships can imagine, but frankly it would be astonishing if there was not a significant and strong debate over any country joining CPTPP. As I said, and as the noble Lord will know from his experience, the House of Commons can continue indefinitely to resolve against ratification, in effect giving the Commons the power to block ratification. I think that is a very significant and probably quite considerable device that would enable the noble Lord to feel reassured on that point.

The question is whether a new party joining CPTPP would trigger the CRaG process. In our view, it absolutely would, which gives enormous power and scrutiny to both Houses in ensuring that there is a proper debate on that. It is important to note, as I think was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that, in the event of the CRaG process being triggered, I would expect the Business and Trade Committee or the International Agreements Committee to request a debate, and that the Government would seek to facilitate this, subject to parliamentary time, as under the Grimstone principle, which we have covered.

I would like to come to a conclusion here. I note the important contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in Committee. He commented that he did not believe that this amendment was “necessary or desirable”, and recognised the importance of unanimity among members. I want to bring us back to that point. We are now part of a group that has attracted interest across the world.

My Lords, I apologise for intervening, particularly when I have not taken part in these debates before, but I want to ask a question before the Minister leaves the issue of the CRaG provisions, which are very important for some of us who have listened to the debate and have an issue. He said clearly just now that the House of Commons could resolve against ratification, but the noble Lord, Lord Alton, was asking if it could have a vote. How would the House of Commons resolve against ratification without voting on the issue? That is what I struggle to understand.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her point. There is no explicit up/down vote built into the CRaG process; we are aware of that. I am talking to a House that has far more experience of the CRaG process than I do, so we know how the process works. There are multiple ways in which a debate can be brought to the Floor of the House. For reassurance, I will go through this point again. The CRaG process requires that a treaty text and an Explanatory Memorandum be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days before ratification can take place. Under CRaG, either House can resolve against ratification of a relevant treaty within the 21 sitting days of it being laid before Parliament. The House of Commons can continue indefinitely to resolve against ratification, in effect giving the Commons the power to block ratification.

To some extent, this is important, but it may be academic. As I said, the question is whether a new party to CPTPP can be snuck under the wire. We are very clear that this is not possible. The process is automatically triggered. Aside from that, there are also the reports written by the Trade and Agriculture Commission, and there has to be an impact assessment, and there has to be a significant amount of scrutiny and debate, as there is about the CPTPP Bill today. I am very reassured on the principles and mechanics around whether we have in this House the right level of control and security to ensure that we have control over our own destiny in relation to new parties joining a plurilateral treaty, which is of course completely different from the country-to-country FTAs.

I am grateful to my noble friend. As a former Leader of the House in the other place and as a member of the International Agreements Committee, I am pretty clear that, under CRaG, the International Agreements Committee here, and potentially the Business and Trade Committee in another place, might make a report to Parliament that could lead to a debate. That debate could be subject to a take-note Motion, but that would be amendable. If it were sought to be amended in the other place to say that a treaty should not be ratified, the Government could not continue to ratify the treaty if such a vote had taken place in the other House to say that it should not. I think that gives the comfort that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, is looking for.

I am very grateful to my noble friend for that comment. He is absolutely right that the Business and Trade Committee and the IAC are able to request a debate, which, as I said, according to the Grimstone principle, we would always seek to facilitate, given parliamentary time.

I should like to come to a conclusion. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. I have made extremely clear, I hope, the rigorous standards that CPTPP applies. This is a plurilateral trading group that wants to have the highest standards of trade among them. That is my first key point. The second is that we have a number of safeguards built into our own processes to ensure that, were another country to join CPTPP—it could be any of the countries applying or future countries over the coming years—there will be a proper process, as has been defined in the CRaG process. I would ask the noble Lord, given the complexities and sensitivities that I believe this amendment would present to our ratification process, to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister and all noble Lords who have taken part in today’s debate. I felt we were quite close to agreement, as I felt we were during the course of the meeting that I had with the Minister. It comes down to the issue of whether or not such a report and Motion, were it to be laid in the House of Commons, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, just said in response to my noble friend Lady Hayman, would be divisible or not. It has been made clear that under the CRaG process that is not possible. That is why it was necessary to table this amendment.

As for some of the other arguments put before your Lordships, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, who raised the issue of the United States of America. If the USA were to seek to join—it is not even in the queue or the list of countries to which the Minister referred earlier—all of us would be very pleased about that. However, China is in the list referred to, so this is not hypothetical—China is in the list. We are not seeking to have the debate here and now as to whether or not China should accede. That is not what this amendment would do. Chronologically, we are getting ahead of ourselves. The amendment would simply empower this House, should we then be members of the CPTPP, to have the right in both Houses to query such an application on the grounds that I laid out at length, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, and the noble Lords, Lord Rooker, Lord Purvis and Lord Leong, in their remarks about the nature of the country that we are dealing with. Is China different from the others? Yes, of course it is manifestly different, not least, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned, because of the products that we buy from Xinjiang. The House of Commons has declared not that there are human rights violations but that there is a genocide—under the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide—taking place in Xinjiang against Uighur Muslims, who are used as slave labour.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is right about that, and we have this trade deficit that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, regularly refers to, of £40 billion, which makes us very dependent on that country and does not contribute to our resilience. Will the CPTPP help us? Yes, it will, and I am glad that we are joining it. That is why I support the Minister in that objective and support this Bill but, as others have said in the debate, we need to be in a position not only to be able to voice our opinions in both Houses but to vote on those things as well. Otherwise, how will we express our view? Will it be done through telepathy? Will it be done as a result of people getting up and saying, “We don’t agree with this”? If there cannot be a vote, it is impossible. All of us in this House or who have been in the other place know that to be the case.

As for the views that have been expressed about the desirability of China’s membership, my noble friend Lord Berkeley of Knighton said that this is exceptional because it is appalling behaviour that we have never probed enough. We must probe. That is what this amendment seeks to do, to give us rights. Look at the amendment. There are two parts to it. The first simply says:

“Before any decision is made by the Government … on the accession … to the CPTPP under Chapter 30 of the CPTPP, the Secretary of State must publish a report”.

That is all well and good. The Minister has accepted that principle, so why not accept the first part of the amendment? What does the second part say? It says:

“Both Houses of Parliament must be presented with a motion for resolution on the report under subsection (1)”.

This is hardly revolutionary. It seems to me perfectly reasonable. We are being invited to tilt at imaginary windmills. I know that some will be under pressure from their Whips but, as I did during the debate, I commend the remarks of the former Leader of the Conservative Party, who has written to members of his party today to say that the amendment remedies the problem in a proportionate way that goes with the grain of government policy.

I would like to seek the opinion of the House, and I hope that those on the Government Benches in particular will vote for this amendment.

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—

“Human rights impact assessment: indigenous and forest peoplesThe Secretary of State must lay before Parliament, within 24 months of the passing of this Act, a human rights impact assessment on the impact of UK CPTPP accession on indigenous and forest peoples in the respective CPTPP parties.”Member's explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to perform a human rights impact assessment on the effect of UK CPTPP accession on indigenous and forest peoples.

My Lords, in moving Amendment 6, I wish also to speak to Amendment 12 in this group. Amendment 6 raises the issue of the displacement of indigenous people severely affected by deforestation resulting from the rush to clear forests for palm oil agriculture. The rainforests of the world are an essential source of carbon storage and provide homes to some of our most iconic species, which everyone is aware of. What is not so widely acknowledged is the effect that forest clearance has on the indigenous people who make their home in the forest. The CPTPP will remove tariffs on palm oil, making deforestation easier. The human cost will be devastating: nearly 1 billion people depend on the forests for their livelihood and 300 million people live in them. This displacement is enormous. An assessment of the impact on these people within 24 months of the passing of this legislation is essential. I look forward to the Minister’s comments.

The World Wide Fund for Nature has identified that two of the 11 deforestation fronts are covered by the CPTPP. These 11 fronts will account for 80% of deforestation by 2030. The Government’s proposed deforestation due diligence only covers illegal deforestation in four linked commodities. The US FOREST Act covers six, and the EU deforestation regulations cover seven, with other countries going further. The UK is lagging behind in this vital area and needs to do much more to protect this dwindling resource. There has to be a more stringent process to ensure that deforestation does not totally destroy the homes of those who are less able to speak up for themselves. A review of the effect on these people is essential.

Amendment 12 is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown. She is unable to be present this afternoon and sends her apologies. I have added my name to this amendment, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. The noble Baroness, Lady Willis, spoke knowledgeably and passionately to this amendment in Committee. The countries which the Government are planning to begin trading with do not have the same stringent rules on the use of pesticides and chemicals as we have. This will undermine and undercut our farmers. It will also put the population at risk.

There are 119 hazardous pesticides banned in the UK which are used in the countries covered by the CPTPP. The border checks which the Government are proposing are not sufficient to be able to prevent goods containing these toxic chemicals from entering the country and the food chain. Some of these pesticides are known to kill bee populations and destroy aquatic ecosystems. The paper border checks which the Government are proposing rely just on documentation. There will be no physical check of goods which may contain pesticides. The Pesticide Action Network found that grapes from CPTPP member countries New Zealand, Chile and Peru may contain 1,000 times the amount of iprodione than their UK equivalent. This is a fungicide linked to cancer. Are the Government really going to expose the population to these toxic chemicals without proper physical checks? A review of the impact within 12 months is again essential.

I shall also speak briefly in support of Amendment 11 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park. This again deals with adequate checks on goods containing sustainable palm oil. This is a vital amendment and I congratulate the noble Lord on bringing it forward. Had I realised early enough that he was putting down this amendment, I would have signed it. Its ethos is Liberal Democrat party policy and something we would definitely have wanted to support.

As has often been the case in the past, a new product is found to be useful worldwide and relatively cheap to produce. There is a rush to produce this product, with little thought given to the long-term consequences of its use. Such is the case with palm oil. It is a new wonder product that everyone wants; it is relatively cheap to produce and grows easily. However useful palm oil is, and however cheap its production, it must be sustainable. Wholesale deforestation in order to grow palm oil is extremely short-sighted, especially as we all recognise the value of the carbon storage capacity of trees. It is ironic that, at a time in the UK when the Government are setting ambitious targets for tree planting, they are also rushing to sign up to trade deals with countries which are destroying their forests to grow palm oil. I fully support this amendment and hope that the Minister will listen to the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and agree to his amendment.

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group. I happily added my name to Amendment 11, but I will focus on my Amendment 9. The common theme through these amendments is of raising concerns about possible issues arising from a trade agreement. We are all free- traders now, but there is a recognition that free trade should be respectful of the limits that we and other countries set to protect labour standards, the environment, food quality and so on. There is a balance to be achieved and this series of amendments raises issues of concern.

These amendments are all limited, because the Bill is limited. It is not the treaty, but just the administrative arrangements required to implement it, so it could not achieve a lot anyway. We are asking the Government to review these issues. I hope that they are of sufficient importance that they would be studied, in any event. It is possible that we do not need these amendments, as a good Government would review these issues, but they provide us with the opportunity to point out areas of concern.

My Amendment 9 concerns investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms. The investment chapter of the CPTPP contains these arrangements and allows companies to sue Governments over decisions to implement policies that impact their corporate profits, even when these decisions were made in the public interest. We debated this in Committee, and I am sorry to say that I found the Minister’s reply to our concerns less than reassuring. Referring to these arrangements, he said that that they do not

“derogate or hinder our right to regulate in the public interest, including in areas such as the environment and labour standards”.

Referring explicitly to the CPTPP, he also said that it

“preserves states’ rights to regulate proportionately, fairly and in the public interest”.—[Official Report, 14/12/23; col. GC 375.]

That sounds fine.

The International Bar Association has a similar view, stating that,

“while investment treaties limit states’ ability to inflict arbitrary or discriminatory treatment, they do not limit (and, in fact, expressly safeguard) a state’s sovereign right to regulate in the public interest in a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory manner”.

The problem is that these phrases, “arbitrary or discriminatory treatment” and a

“fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory manner”,

are doing a lot of heavy lifting. They are all subject to interpretation. There have been real concerns that, in practice, commercial interests will be elevated above those of the public. There is so much there that needs to be taken on trust. The key point is that this clearly—and, I suggest, inarguably—is an issue that needs to be kept under close review, which my amendment does.

The problem we face is that ISDS arrangements have been used to challenge health provision, labour rights and other important regulations. This is not a theoretical possibility; there have been enough examples in practice to give rise to this concern. I quoted the CBI in Committee and it is worth expressing its views again—that there is

“a risk of the UK becoming disproportionately targeted through ISDS”,

and that

“there could also be environmental implications of the UK being exposed to the ISDS mechanism”.

These are not fringe concerns but concerns of different interest groups.

In simple terms, the ISDS arrangements make it possible for firms to sue Governments for measures that harm their profits. The existence of this power has a chilling effect on regulations, particularly those designed to combat climate change.

A specific example, of which we need some account, is the attitude to the energy charter treaty, under which many cases have been brought by western companies taking action against Governments to limit their use and expansion of fossil fuels. So problematic has this become that large European countries have signalled their intention to exit from this treaty. The Government themselves have said that they are reviewing their energy charter treaty membership and

“will carefully consider the views of stakeholders”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/9/23; col. 4WS.]

Given the dawning realisation that these sorts of clauses are an impediment to climate action and to sovereign policy-making in general, it seems wrong for us to sign up to further restrictions through this treaty. I am amazed by the modesty of the demand that this aspect of the CPTPP should be subject to a formal review so that we can see what impact it is having on government corporate relations.

My Lords, I am delighted to speak to Amendment 10 in my name, which is in similar terms to the amendment I tabled in Committee and requests

“an assessment of the impact of the implementation of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement on environmental protection and animal welfare, health and hygiene”.

I am grateful to my noble friend for trying to seek me out. I missed him yesterday and he missed me today. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and a number of others, we were paying tribute at the memorial to an outstanding parliamentarian, Baroness Boothroyd. I am sorry that I missed my noble friend’s attempt to speak to me, but I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to him in the confines of these deliberations.

What has changed very clearly since Committee stage is that an announcement was made by the Environment Secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference that the Government are committing to consult on new food labelling—plans that will ensure that British produce will, as he put it,

“stand out from the crowd”.

The idea is to allow changes to food labelling entitling consumers to make better decisions at the supermarket in particular, while also highlighting high-quality British produce to the public. I quote from the press release issued by the NFU, which quotes what my right honourable friend Steve Barclay said:

“New food labelling would also make it clearer when imported products do not meet the same UK welfare standards”.

I put it to my noble friend: would it not be better if we did not import food that does not meet the high UK animal welfare and environmental standards that consumers demand and our domestic producers are honoured and delighted to meet? What is the relationship between this new labelling scheme and the Red Tractor scheme, which already demonstrates compliance with all the food requirements by domestic producers?

Is it not a fact, and does my noble friend not agree, that domestic producers meet the highest standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in their production? This means they are meeting a higher standard and it is therefore more expensive to produce. This is exactly what happened in the 1990s with the decision to unilaterally ban sow stalls and tethers in the production of pigmeat while we continued to import pork produced by sow stalls and tethers for an interim period of seven years. This meant the consumer swapped high-end, high-quality, high-animal-welfare-standard UK pig production with lower, cheaper, substandard imports. After seven years, this put our pig producers out of business.

I hope my noble friend will give me his assurance today that after six months—or 12 months in the terms of my Amendment 10—an assessment will be undertaken by his department, jointly with Defra, to ensure that the trade Bill before us this evening does not discriminate against UK domestic production, particularly of meat and dairy. In addition, can he give an assurance that the food labelling provisions that Defra is proposing to consult on, and which I support, will apply not just to supermarket labelling but will somehow translate on to the food menus for food sourced from third countries in our restaurants, bars and cafés in this country? That is the main purport lying behind Amendment 10.

I remind my noble friend that the 2022 joint annual report of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland states:

“the EU still accounts for two-thirds of all food and feed imports, and 80% of all meat and other products of animal origin”.

The Government were committed to introducing the checks and examinations at UK ports on 31 December 2023 to ensure that imports, whether from third countries through the EU or from EU countries, meet the same standards as required here. Will my noble friend confirm that those checks are now in place, as of the end of last year and the beginning of this year?

Further, will my noble friend confirm that the food and feed imported from outside the EU will have more frequent additional physical checks, rather than those currently carried out only randomly on a predefined percentage? It is, again, important to our own home producers to ensure that, while they are subject to the absolute force of law from the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, those imports from third countries will meet the same high standards at the point of import. It is not right that we should leave it to local authorities, whose resources are extremely stretched at the moment, to do all the checks required, when these checks would be better taking place at the point of entry. At the moment, all food and feed of animal origin coming from outside the EU is subjected to only documentary checks confirming that appropriate documentation is supplied and identity checks confirming that product matches the documentation. Will my noble friend undertake an assessment after six or 12 months of this trade Bill coming into force to ensure that a higher proportion of additional physical checks than just a predefined percentage are taking place at the point of entry?

It is in the context of those questions that I urge my noble friend to look very favourably on the purport and content of Amendment 10.

I rise to speak to the proposed new clause “Review: forest risk commodities”, which is in my name and the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord McNicol. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, has spoken and I thank him for his support. I also appreciated the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, when she spoke earlier, and I strongly agree with the case she made for prioritising indigenous people. There is no cheaper or more effective solution, if we are interested in protecting nature, than backing those who have been doing that for generations. The maths and facts speak for themselves—80% of terrestrial biodiversity is in land looked after, and in some cases owned by, indigenous people, so the noble Baroness makes the point very well.

Deforestation is a major environmental crisis for so many reasons. We heard earlier from the noble Baroness that the displacement of people all over the world is causing runaway biodiversity collapse and the loss of a terrifying variety of lifeforms. Once gone, they are never going to come back. Nearly 90% of deforestation is caused by agricultural expansion. The resulting loss of habitat has caused a horrifying decline in everything from tigers and elephants to rhinos, hornbills and orangutans. Orangutans, incidentally, are relevant to this amendment because they tend to live in areas where palm oil is so prevalent; they have lost 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years.

Forest loss goes far beyond even that. The Congo basin, whose forest is disappearing at a rate of around 1 million hectares every single year, produces most of the rainfall for the entire continent of Africa. If those trends are allowed to continue, we are going to see humanitarian crisis on biblical scales. In the Amazon too—we do not fully understand the role of the Amazon in generating rainfall, but we know it generates rainfall and that that rainfall falls in the southern states of the United States, and that without the Amazon there would be huge repercussions across that entire region—it is in everyone’s interest that stopping deforestation remains a top priority.

I have not even mentioned climate change at this point. Deforestation is now the second leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels. There is no credible solution to climate change and no credible net-zero plan that does not include nature at its very heart. A plan that does not include nature is not, in real terms, a plan at all.

It is for these reasons I am bringing this amendment to the House today. Noble Lords have previously expressed concern that, once ratified, the CPTPP agreement will remove all tariffs on palm oil irrespective of its environmental credentials. They are right to flag this issue, which has been flagged a number of times, because in pursuing that policy we risk, at the very least, undermining the core of our COP 26 messaging on the importance of forest.

It also contradicts commitments made by the Government under Schedule 17 to the Environment Act to tackle illegal deforestation in our supply chains. Indeed, without the safeguards of the due diligence secondary legislation in place—that safeguard is not there yet and I hope the Minister will be able to provide some reassurance about when that is going to happen—it is simply irresponsible to pursue a policy of this sort.

Around 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is estimated that around 1% of Malaysian palm oil smallholdings are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. That 1% makes up around 40% of all the palm oil plantations in Malaysia. The RSPO is probably the most widely recognised certification scheme. It is voluntary, and among other things it requires that palm oil is deforestation- free.

We know what is possible when a Government are serious about this issue. We have actually seen amazing efforts and results in Indonesia. It gets very little credit for the work we have seen over the last few years, but under the leadership of a number of very impressive people, not least Minister Siti Nurbaya, that country has come pretty close—it has not done it yet, but has come pretty close—to breaking the link between palm oil production and environmental destruction. I think it should get more credit for the work it is doing, because it is a model that other commodity-producing countries could learn from.

I acknowledge and welcome, very briefly, the side agreement that the UK and Malaysian Governments have signed. It commits to strengthening efforts to conserve forests and promote sustainable supply chains, in particular around palm oils. In many respects, the statement goes further than the due diligence secondary legislation that I mentioned earlier. But the agreement still relies on the Malaysian sustainable palm oil certification scheme, as opposed to the RSPO, which I mentioned earlier. The details around the Malaysian scheme are unclear and in truth it is significantly less robust than the RSPO—I do not think anyone would argue against that.

That is why it is so vital that work is done to review the impact of that agreement once it is in place. This proposed new clause is very simple, and that is what it seeks to do. It would require a review every two years that would assess the effectiveness of that agreement, alongside the impact of the CPTPP trade deal, on the sustainable production of forest risk commodities more broadly, including palm oil of course, right the way through our supply chains. The review would also look at the impact of the deal on deforestation within CPTPP nations, and the compatibility of the deal with our own due diligence regulations.

I hope that noble Lords agree that it is a reasonable amendment. It offers a practical way of reaffirming the Government’s commitment to making sure that our own supply chains are part of the solution and not the problem, as well as empowering Parliament to hold the Government to account on this issue. The new clause is supported by a number of signi