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Institute for Free Trade: Launch Cost

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 20 February 2018

8. What the cost to the public purse was of the launch of the Institute for Free Trade held on his Department’s premises. (903896)

Oh, come off it! Come off it! The right hon. Gentleman must think that we were all born yesterday. The truth is that this was a private party, which was going on on Government premises, sanctioned by the Foreign Secretary. He has been trying to dress up a tinpot bunch of ideological crackpots as an institute, quite against the law, and he has broken the ministerial code. He has been caught in flagrante delicto, hasn’t he?

I am under the unhappy duty of contradicting the hon. Gentleman. He is talking the most perfect tripe. The event that took place was completely non-partisan. Members of all parties were present. [Interruption.] Including the Labour party. EU and non-EU ambassadors were represented. It was fully in line with Foreign and Commonwealth Office rules on hosting such events, and I have here a letter from the Cabinet Secretary to confirm that, which I am happy to pass to the hon. Gentleman. I am afraid to say that the Cabinet Secretary has been pestered with complaints from the Labour party about this absolutely blameless event, which was there to support and encourage free trade, which is a major objective of Government policy and should be an objective of the hon. Gentleman—or is it not?

Was the excellent continental free trade area agreement of the African Union, which would bring great prosperity, discussed? If it was not discussed then, could it be discussed at the next meeting? I would be very happy to pay for it.

I hesitate for an age before correcting you, Mr Speaker, but it was a serious discussion of the advancement of free trade. The subject of free trade in the African Union, which my hon. Friend raises, is a very good one. The only advice I would give to the African Union is not to acquire a parliament, a court or a single currency.

I do not know how long he was there, and I cannot say that I greatly care. We have had the answers.