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Commons Chamber

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

House of Commons

Thursday 21 October 2021

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

International Trade

Trade Deals: Human Rights

1. What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on human rights into future trade deals. (903681)

I and my whole team would like to associate ourselves with the tributes to Sir David Amess that have been made this week. He was listed on the Order Paper for today’s oral questions and I have no doubt that he would have championed the export opportunities for Southend, our newest city.

The Government are clear that more trade will not come at the expense of human rights. The UK will continue to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international rights obligations and to hold to account those who violate those rights. By having stronger economic relationships with partners, we have the opportunity to open discussions on a range of issues.

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments about our friend, Sir David. I welcome the Secretary of State to and congratulate her on her new position.

I note that the recent trade deal with New Zealand refers to indigenous people. Does the Secretary of State share my concern that when it comes to human rights it is important that we protect freedom of religion? Will she meet me to discuss further how UK trade deals can promote human rights and religious freedoms globally?

The hon. Lady is right: as we reach out, with our new ability to do free trade deals with our friends and allies, it is important to us to consider such important issues. For New Zealand, a chapter on indigenous peoples and their part in their nation’s future progress, in respect of both economic and wider issues, was very important and we were happy to work with New Zealand to include it. I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss more fully the particular area of freedom of religion, which I agree is extremely important and which the UK continues to champion around the world.

I welcome the excellent Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box. Does she agree that free trade agreements enable us to influence the supply chain in the countries with which we trade freely? When I chaired the all-party parliamentary group against human trafficking, the improvement of supply chains was very much appreciated and reduced the amount of human trafficking.

My hon. Friend, who has done a great deal of work in this policy space, is absolutely right. It is important that we make sure not only that we use the power of trade to build relationships, as I said, but to give our businesses that want to work globally through supply chains the best tools and protections that they might need to ensure that they have authority with countries where the improvement of the position of the supply-chain workforce and, indeed, the protection of other human rights is critical.

With the Government’s own data showing that the vast majority of the UK public would not support a trade deal with Saudi Arabia, will the Government confirm that they will not be seeking trade agreements with countries with poor human rights records?

As I have said, we have been clear that trade never comes at the expense of human rights, but we will always make use of the many relationships we have, including a very strong and long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia, to work with partners not only to get mutual trading benefit but to help to make improvements on the issues that we consider to be important.

British Farmers: Global Exports

4. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903684)

10. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903690)

16. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903703)

Our trade agreements are lowering tariffs and unlocking new opportunities for food exporters and the farmers that supply them. The Department for International Trade supports such businesses to capitalise on those opportunities, expand into new markets and sell fantastic British produce overseas.

Our fantastic farmers in Cumbria and the wider UK produce world-class food with the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. We should be very proud of that—we can be a beacon to the rest of the world. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give to the farmers in Penrith and The Border and throughout the UK that those high standards will be upheld in future trade deals, and that meaningful parliamentary scrutiny will be possible, not least through the urgent establishment of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission?

Just as the Cumbrian farmers are doing well, may I say how proud I am of my Northumbrian farmers who, just across the way, are similarly producing some of the finest food in the world? My hon. Friend is quite right: the new Trade and Agriculture Commission will play an important role in scrutinising trade agreements after signature. Applications are being considered and we hope to be able to announce the membership and the details very shortly. The commission will be in place to scrutinise, first of all, the free trade agreement with Australia when we sign it.

Export markets are increasing for Welsh farmers as we look to the US market for lamb opening up once more. There is also the export success of farms in my constituency of Clwyd South, such as Knolton farmhouse cheese and the increased beef exports by the Rhug estate. Will my right hon. Friend redouble her efforts to ensure that future trade deals open up even more global markets for Welsh and UK farmers?

Wales produces some of the UK’s most iconic food products and we have already unlocked new markets to increase opportunities—for example, gaining access for UK lamb, poultry and beef to Japan. We want to unlock even more opportunities for Welsh farmers and exporters and we will be working closely with the Welsh farming industry as we seek to do so.

On behalf of my constituent, Irene Fowlie, may I thank the Department, along with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for its help in facilitating the export of high-quality pedigree Essie Suffolk sheep to Georgia earlier this year? May I ask my right hon. Friend, whom I welcome to her new role, how we can improve access to new export routes for other high-quality agricultural produce, particularly from Scotland?

My hon. Friend is a great champion of all the wonderful produce coming out of Scotland and I thank him for his continued efforts. He will be pleased to know that we launched the export support service on 1 October, which will be there to help existing and potentially new exporters with some of those new markets. We have also established a new team in Edinburgh, which is building great networks, and we are committed to enhancing our support for businesses across Scotland to help us showcase the amazing goods and services from every corner of that nation.

The House will be aware of the problems facing UK pig farmers; pigs are sadly being culled on farms, partly because of a shortage of labour, but also because of the closure of markets to China. Other European countries have managed to reopen those markets, but the UK has signally failed to do so. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that diplomatic failure?

I will happily pick that up and make sure that the team from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gives the hon. Gentleman the most up-to-date information on those pork markets, but we continue to work with all our farmers to make sure that they are able to move their goods to new markets.

Let me begin by welcoming the Secretary of State to her new role. May I associate myself with the remarks that she made about the late David Amess. He was an enthusiastic and lively participant in International Trade questions, as he was with everything that he turned his mind to.

I also look forward to studying the Secretary of State’s response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission report, which I have just learned will be released with a written ministerial statement later today.

On page 54 of the International Trade Department’s June 2020 paper on the strategic approach to free trade with New Zealand, it forecast that an agreement along the lines that I understand the Government announced last night will cause

“a reduction in output and employment…in the UK agriculture sector.”

Does that remain the Secretary of State’s forecast for the impact of last night’s deal?

I will be making an oral statement to the House shortly and I am sure that we all look forward to discussing this issue in more detail. I am very confident that the deal that we struck will provide the opportunity for our wonderful food producers to continue to sell their goods across the world, and, as we make more trade deals, create new markets for them.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but it does rather illustrate why we need a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to provide an independent assessment. After all, last November, the previous Secretary of State told the National Farmers’ Union in Wales:

“We have no intention of ever striking a deal that doesn’t benefit farmers, but we have provided checks and balances in the form of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the new TAC will be asked to examine the proposed deals with Australia and New Zealand and tell us simply whether these deals benefit our farmers?

The new TAC will be charged with some very clear direction, and given independence for it to be able to scrutinise both the Australian and New Zealand trade deals and all the other trade deals that we are looking to strike in the months and years ahead.

Free Trade Agreements

3. What recent progress her Department has made on securing free trade agreements with countries around the world. (903683)

13. What recent progress her Department has made on securing free trade agreements with countries around the world. (903697)

We now have trade deals with 68 countries around the world, plus the EU, covering trade worth £744 billion last year.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the trade deals we have secured, especially those with Commonwealth partners—such as the excellent deals with Australia and, more recently, New Zealand—are a shining example of global Britain in action, and that they are opening up fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, be they in Rother Valley or across our great country?

Global Britain means using our expertise, resources, talents and values as a force for good in the world, and furthering not just our interests, but the interests of the whole of humanity. My hon. Friend’s part of the world is helping us to do that; last year, Yorkshire and the Humber exported more than £240 million-worth of goods to Australia alone. I want those businesses in his constituency to benefit from the removal of tariffs.

I very much welcome the trade deals that the Government have secured, particularly the most recent one with New Zealand, but trade deals are a first step and it is now for British businesses to take advantage of them. Does the Minister agree that the role of skilled, professional salespeople with business-to-business selling skills will be critical to ensuring that we get the projected value from these deals, and that we need to give those people every support?

My hon. Friend is right, and he is doing his damnedest to make sure that Rugby is at the front of the queue in that respect. To support his businesses, we are delivering an export promotion campaign that positions exporting as a route to growth, prosperity and job creation. The campaign will encourage businesses to seize the opportunities from trade deals, while directing them to our new export support services.

I also welcome the Minister for Trade Policy, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), to her new role.

I have already mentioned the forecast that the deal with New Zealand will cost jobs in our farming communities. Has the Minister had a chance to read that? I also want to ask her about exports and growth. Is it correct, as her Department says on page 54 of the document, that under the terms of the deal New Zealand’s exports to the UK will increase by five times as much as UK exports to New Zealand, and that, as it says on page 58, New Zealand’s GDP will grow by half a billion pounds while the UK’s GDP will not increase by a single penny? Will the Minister tell us whether those figures are right?

Missing from the right hon. Lady’s question was any timeframe. The Opposition need to appreciate that we are building and increasing these markets. Over time, the numbers will go up, because we have given our businesses and farmers the opportunity to do that, and because we have faith in those businesses and farmers to seize those opportunities that we give them. I hope that the right hon. Lady and her Opposition colleagues will be cheerleaders in that respect.

I am just reading the figures from the Minister’s Department and there is a real problem: this is now the third Asia-Pacific agreement in a row—Japan, Australia and now New Zealand—where more than 80% of the growth in trade projected by her own Department has gone to exporters in those other countries and less than 20% has gone to exporters in the UK. The Government say that they are tilting to Asia. I have to say, I think that Asia is taking us to the cleaners. While the Minister is still relatively new, will she sit down with her new boss and tell the Department that enough is enough—that we need trade deals that deliver for Britain, and we need jobs, exports and growth?

Nine trillion pounds—that is what these deals, and ultimately the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, will mean to this country. Yes, we have three deals, and we are going to get more. That is what we want to do. We are going to grow these markets. That is the whole point of our leaving the EU and formulating this plan for global Britain. These deals will increase growth and prosperity in this country, which will fund everything that matters to all Members of this House.

Export of Financial Services

My hon. Friend will know that the UK is a global financial services hub. The Government’s ambition is to champion this success and promote further growth in financial services through supporting UK businesses to set up shop in markets around the world and striking ambitious progressive trade agreements to open up new markets for our financial services exporters.

We are already one of the world’s largest net exporters of financial services, but does my hon. Friend agree that if we are to expand financial services trade even further, we need the regulator to be as energetic and committed as this Government are to expanding that trade?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. As someone who has come from a financial services background, I have felt the regulator’s hand on my shoulder, so I do understand that regulation can be good, but equally our regulators need to be entirely in tune with our export policy. My colleagues in the Treasury who lead on regulation will be ensuring that our regulator works closely with our export strategy. Specifically, I refer my hon. Friend to some of the annexes particularly in our trade deal with Japan where the benefits of that work can already been seen.

Trade Negotiations: Welsh Government

6. What recent discussions she has had with the Welsh Government on her Department’s ongoing trade negotiations. (903686)

The Department for International Trade has established structures to engage very constructively with devolved Administrations across the United Kingdom, including the Welsh Government. I and my fellow Ministers will be speaking with Welsh Government counterparts in due course, as we always have done.

The Welsh Government, Hybu Cig Cymru and the farmers unions have all expressed concerns about the direction of UK trade policy, especially with regard to food—fears, I suspect, that will be heightened by today’s announcement about the deal with New Zealand. On the eve of COP26, can the Minister explain the environmental sense of undercutting domestic food production with imports from the other side of the world?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman slightly misses the point about trade. The opportunity for trade is for us to be able to sell all over the world too. The Welsh farmers, along with British farmers across our country, I am sure, will be seeking these opportunities to trade not only with the 68 countries around the world with whom we have trade deals, plus the EU, but more to come—with the Gulf, with India, and much more in future. In respect of the opportunities regarding our friends in New Zealand and Australia, they sell much more of their products to Asia, where prices are higher, so our farmers need not be concerned.

UK Trade with the EU

It is interesting that Ministers are talking about growing trade when it is actually going in the other direction. Trade with Germany is worth eight times our trade with Australia, so we must all be concerned to hear that UK exports to Germany are down by 11% so far this year. We have also fallen outside Germany’s top 10 trading partners for the first time in 71 years. The Minister must share these concerns, so what is she going to do about it?

UK trade in goods with the EU has been steadily increasing this year and is now above average levels for 2020, and exports are increasing faster than imports. However, we recognise that there are difficulties, which is why, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we have stood up the export support service, which launched on 1 October. That is primarily focused on trade with the EU, but will, over time, be expanded to rest of world. There will be a briefing for all parliamentary staff on the export support service, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman from my own constituents’ experience that it is already making a difference.

Last month, the previous Secretary of State said that it had been a mistake to focus

“too much on trade with the EU despite the richest opportunities being in the Asia-Pacific.”

Are the Government now making the reverse mistake by focusing too much on small gains in Asia despite the far bigger losses we are facing in Europe?

The issue is that as part of the EU we had to focus on trade with the EU and we were hampered in setting our own agreements and policies with the rest of the world. Now we can trade with the rest of the world as well as the EU. We have had difficulties with covid and with all sorts of things that global trade has had to cope with, but we will recover, as will the rest of the world. When the numbers start going the right way, as they already are, and exceed previous years, I hope that Opposition Members will start to talk this country up rather than down.

It is fantastic that the UK has already agreed trade deals with almost 70 countries, plus the EU, that accounted for £744 billion-worth of UK bilateral trade in 2020. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is firm evidence of our striking out into the world and seizing the new opportunities that we now have ahead of us outside of the EU that will benefit Teesside businesses in the long run?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he is doing to ensure that businesses can capitalise on these new opportunities. We need to give them the tools to do the job and help them to break into new markets, but the opportunities are immense, and I thank all colleagues who are helping us to achieve those ambitions and supporting businesses, particularly small businesses, in their constituencies.

Trade Deals: Environmental Standards

8. What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on environmental standards into future trade deals. (903688)

The UK is seeking ambitious environmental provisions in all future trade deals, including those which preserve our high levels of environmental protection and ensure our trade and environment policies are mutually supportive. Negotiations, including with both Australia and New Zealand, are progressing and the UK is also preparing for the next phase of negotiations, including with India, Mexico and Canada.

Last week, a leaked document drawn up by departmental officials revealed that it was the Government’s policy to prioritise economic growth over climate protection in the UK’s trade deals. If the Minister says that is not a true reflection of the Department’s negotiating priorities, can she explain why it was written by departmental officials and distributed across Whitehall just days ago?

Our ambitious trade deal with Australia, for instance, includes a substantive article that affirms both parties’ commitments to address climate change, making clear our commitments mutually to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the Paris agreement and the achievement of all those goals. We will continue to have that and more detail as we make new trade deals.

I add my welcome to the Secretary of State. She was asked in the previous question about a leaked document, which suggests that economic growth is a higher priority for this Government in trade negotiations than climate protection. I know that must be embarrassing for her, given that the Government are supposed to be showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis ahead of COP26, but she can confirm the Government’s priority once and for all by making a definitive statement now about whether the Government and her Department will rule out trade deals with countries such as Brazil and Malaysia so long as they continue to destroy their rainforests. Will she make that commitment today?

Economic growth and the UK’s world-leading commitment to the climate challenges that the planet faces are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand. The environment and climate change will continue to be a key priority for the UK. Our ambition and leadership in that and helping our UK businesses that are driving the green agenda and providing the clean technologies of the future will be a critical part of making sure that our trade deals are very good for those British producers.

Trade Envoys

9. What progress her Department’s newly appointed trade envoys have made on promoting British exports and investment. (903689)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Iceland and Norway. Our new trade envoys are strengthening commercial ties in their designated markets and assisting UK businesses to take full advantage of opportunities arising from our global trade and investment agenda.

I was delighted to be appointed the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Norway and Iceland, following the signing of free trade agreements with those countries. Can my hon. Friend update the House as to how his Department is looking to deepen the relationship between the UK and Norway and Iceland?

I am pleased to say that on 8 July, the UK signed the new, improved trade deal with Norway and Iceland. It is the most advanced trade deal that both countries have ever signed, with gold-stamped provisions in digital trade, mobile roaming and business travel. It will cut tariffs and support jobs in every corner of our country, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to exploit those opportunities.

I also welcome the ministerial team to their place, and I echo the comments over the tragic loss of our parliamentary friend and colleague, Sir David Amess. It was a senseless act.

Far from promoting Scottish exports, new documents from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show that for the period ending June 2021, Scottish exports had decreased by 14% from the previous year. That is not a covid blip, but a result of the UK Government’s decisions over Brexit. The report contains damning charts highlighting the cliff edge that Scottish trade is being pushed over. It is long-term economic vandalism. All the tiny free trade agreements that the Government are willing to sell out for cannot move the dial on the shortfall. Will the Government apologise to Scottish businesses and offer compensation?

I have to say this is week six in the role, so I will admit to being rather new to some of the challenges, but I did think—[Interruption.] At least be gentle with me today. I did think that the Scottish Government had their own exports Department—[Interruption.] Hang on a minute. My understanding of my brief is that one of my roles is to work closely with the Scottish Government on their exports policies. If the hon. Gentleman will let me work with the Administration and our new office that we have opened to boost co-operation and exports from Scotland, that should address the problem. I accept his criticism, but ask him to allow me some time to work with him and his colleagues so we can reverse that trend.

Mr Speaker, I think anybody listening to that would be a bit stunned. I will cut the Minister some slack for being new in the job, but not knowing the basics is something he will have to polish up on. That answer is simply unacceptable to businesses pushed into crisis by this Government.

Let us take food and drink as an example. Food and drink manufacture is twice as important to the Scottish economy as to that of the UK as a whole, and the food and drink export trade is four times as important to the Scottish economy. Once again, Scottish interests are being treated as expendable.

The UK Government have failed to look for solutions to the Brexit trading barriers that are inflicting serious and lasting harm on Scotland. I have an offer for the new Minister: will he hold immediate cross-party talks to find new measures and solutions, or will he once again simply prove that the only way to protect Scotland’s interest is through independence?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the food and drink sector across the whole of the UK, and in Scotland, is a priority for this team. I can honestly tell him that I am more than happy to sit down with him and his colleagues to work through some of the challenges that we both share, but I also want him to recognise the opportunities that our new trade deals will offer. When we deliver on those trade opportunities, I hope he will give credit to the UK Government.

As the recently appointed trade envoy to Brazil, it would be remiss of me not to point out just one of the huge opportunities we have in building a positive relationship with Brazil. At 212 million, its population is seven times the combined populations of New Zealand and Australia. Some 65 million people in Brazil do not have a bank account. To build on the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), does the Minister agree that financial services represent a fantastic opportunity, not just for this country but to support Brazil in bringing in its own revenues, as it should be?

I am going to be generous—I think it was stretching the original question—but the Minister will pick it up.

Financial services are a huge part of the UK economy. We recognise that they are a huge opportunity for this country to work with our partners, especially Brazil, to ensure that we can share the benefits and expertise that we have with them.

UK Pork: Trade with China

11. What recent assessment she has made of the potential effect on trade of the suspension of export licences for UK pork processing plants trading with China. (903694)

I am grateful for the question. This issue has affected pork exporters in many countries. To my knowledge, three British businesses are affected. In the 12 months to August 2021, British pig meat exports to China decreased by 3,642 tonnes, which is down 2.1%. The value of pig meat exported to China over the same period increased by £12.6 million, however, which is up 4.6%.

I am afraid it does appear that almost every single UK Government Department is trying to undermine the UK pig sector, and nowhere is that more keenly felt than in Brechin in my constituency. The Secretary of State said earlier to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) that DEFRA will be supplying us with an answer to the China exports crisis. DEFRA is impotent; this is a trade issue. What is the Department for International Trade going to do about the crisis in exports to China?

I appreciate the strength of the hon. Member’s conviction in this area, but I come back to the core answer, which is that Her Majesty’s Government will work in every possible way we can to resolve such issues. Ministers have raised this issue with Chinese counterparts, and this Department continues to press the Chinese authorities for a swift resolution. We are working very closely with affected British pork processing plants. I would just make the point to him that we are very clear-eyed on our trade relationship with China. We have no plans to negotiate a trade deal, but we believe that more trade with our trading partners around the world, including China, is important, so we are working very closely on this.

Free Trade Agreement: India

I met my Indian counterpart, Minister Goyal, at the G20 in Italy last week to discuss final preparations for the launch of negotiations before the end of this year. My officials have concluded a series of bilateral working groups with Indian colleagues, and we will publish our negotiating aims, the response to the public consultation and an economic assessment of the FTA in the coming weeks.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her new job. The EU has been trying, unsuccessfully, to do a trade deal with India for 24 years, but we have an advantage. India is the third biggest investor in the UK, and we used to be the third biggest investor in India, but we have slipped down the league table. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, now that we are free from the shackles of Brussels, we have the ideal opportunity to negotiate a free trade deal, which would be good for our two great countries?

I thank my hon. Friend for his passionate presentation. I know about his relationship with India, and I hope very much that we will be able to harness all his knowledge and passion as we pull this together. We are in the final phase of preparations for the launch of negotiations very shortly, and I look forward to updating the House on our negotiating aims very soon.

Businesses in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton are excited about the prospect of a trade deal with India. Can I ask my right hon. Friend what work she is doing with businesses with existing links to India to ensure that we can really leverage those connections and make sure that areas such as the Black Country—which I know my right hon. Friend is going to visit very soon to see some of those businesses—make the most out of a trade deal with India?

I thank my hon. Friend, and I am always happy to stop in and meet some of the amazing businesses in his constituency, for which he is such a great champion. All UK sectors and regions stand to benefit from a trade deal with India, improving access to one of the fastest growing and most dynamic markets in the world. Its GDP is predicted to grow by 8.5% next year and imports into the UK by 8.2%. I want to make sure that, as the trade deal comes together, we are providing both the tools and the liberalising opportunities for all our great businesses.

India, like many other countries, is lagging on vaccination—fewer than half there have had their first jab—so does the Secretary of State support her US counterpart’s call for a temporary waiver of the patents on covid vaccines?

The hon. Member’s question is timely. The G7 trade talks will be taking place tomorrow here in London, and that question and many of the issues—we will be discussing those questions at the WTO in December—will be raised. I am sure he will be pleased to see the communiqué outcomes.

May I welcome the Secretary of State to her place and wish her well? I endorse the need for a trade agreement with India, but, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) said earlier, I caution, in relation to any trade agreement, about the rights of those of a different religious persuasion, including those of a Christian persuasion. I met the high commissioner for India in Northern Ireland some four weeks ago, and pushed the point with her about how important it is, within a trade agreement, to have freedom of religious belief for all. Unfortunately, that does not happen in India. When the Secretary of State has talks with the Indian Government about a trade agreement will she ensure that it benefits those with different religious beliefs and other persecuted minorities?

As I said to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), I am happy to discuss that area. As colleagues will be aware, the FCDO is always at the forefront of such discussions, ensuring that where we have lines of communication we are robust and firm friends on issues that we consider to be values, and that we continue to trade with others and have good relationships. We will continue to work in that area.

Trade Strategy: Climate Change

The Department for International Trade is pursuing a range of objectives to put climate and environment at the centre of our departmental ambitions, and we are committed to maximising the economic value of the net zero transition. In addition, UK Export Finance recently published its climate change strategy, setting out its support for green exports and its commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Climate change continues to be the dominant issue that affects people and Governments all over the world, and COP26 needs to show that it has co-ordinated efforts with countries that can help. Would my right hon. Friend ever consider trade sanctions against countries that wilfully ignore their responsibilities, and would a carbon border adjustment be a mechanism she would consider?

As hosts of COP26 and the G7 this year we are determined to promote transformational actions to deliver on the Paris agreement. The UK is building international consensus for ambitious collective action on mitigating those emissions, and promoting policies such as carbon pricing to ensure that private sector incentives are aligned with our goals for an ambitious outcome at COP26. From a trade perspective, any policy option we pursue should be market oriented, World Trade Organisation compliant, evidence based, proportionate, and forward looking.

Topical Questions

Last week I attended the G20 trade and investment ministerial meeting, where I made the case for fair and open markets, ahead of the upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation. Tomorrow I will be hosting the G7 trade Ministers meeting, where I will make that case again. This week the UK hosted the first global investment summit, where £9.7 billion of investment was secured. Those deals will support green growth and create more than 30,000 jobs across the country. That will deliver for families, workers and businesses across Britain, and set the stage for greater co-operation between the UK Government and businesses around the world on global challenges such as digital trade and climate change. Last night we secured our agreement in principle with New Zealand for our free trade agreement. Trade is a vital part of our plan to level up our country, slashing costs and red tape for exporters, building new trade routes for our services companies, and refocusing Britain on the dynamic economies of Asia-Pacific. With COP26 fast approaching, I will continue to drive forward the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, using our global networks to drive up green business ambitions, and attracting investment to the UK’s green sectors.

Every mile that every product travels grows its carbon footprint, and the Secretary of State has not denied her Department’s leaked document that states that it prioritises economic growth over climate protection. How will she make representation at COP26 when we hear that we are way off our 1.5 °C target, and place the climate emergency—and it is an emergency—at the top of her priorities, as opposed to being something she does not really believe in?

As I said earlier, economic growth and tackling the challenge of climate change go hand in hand. Finding solutions to those polluting methods of travel is a key area where the UK is leading with innovative businesses, and coming up with solutions regarding aviation fuel, or looking at clean shipping. We have brought international aviation and shipping challenges into carbon budget 6, and we are leading the way in ensuring that, economically as well as being part of the planet’s requirements, we find solutions that mean we can continue to trade, ensuing that those journeys involve clean energy users.

T2. I have a number of livestock, cattle and sheep farmers in my beautiful Hastings and Rye constituency in East Sussex, of which I am very proud. On global export opportunities for my farmers, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to differentiate UK lamb or beef from that from other parts of the world, for example by establishing a UK brand? Is she developing an export strategy specifically for that purpose? (903637)

Our fantastic beef and lamb are world renowned for high welfare and environmental standards, and indeed for excellent flavour. The cross-Government GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaign gives global brand recognition to the UK’s offer, including our world-class food and drink, which we are proud to promote around the world. Our agricultural food and drink Open Doors campaign, launched earlier this year, is helping UK agribusinesses seize the opportunities presented by our new trade agreements.

T3. I welcome the Secretary of State to her place and the two new Ministers to the team. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment yesterday to bringing forward the long-overdue online harms Bill. The Secretary of State will know that I have spent many years campaigning on that Bill and trying to ensure that it is brought forward in better time. I know that Ministers will agree that there can be no loopholes in our trade agreements when it comes to the liability of online service providers. Have Ministers commissioned legal advice on the compatibility of the draft online safety legislation with chapter 14 of the provisions of the trans-Pacific partnership in relation to electronic commerce? We really cannot allow platforms to get away from culpability for not tackling the abuses that everyone receives through their platforms. (903638)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work that he has done in this area. Clearly, in addition to being compatible with UK law, we have an ambition that the UK will be the safest place in the world to do business. In addition to the legal advice that we commission, we are consulting widely with stakeholders in this sector and in other sectors that are emerging markets. We want to ensure that we are able to expand digital services but also to support the values that need to underpin that sector if it is going to thrive and be successful.

T5. One of the UK’s greatest exports is Stoke-on-Trent’s world-leading ceramics, which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has heard much about from her newly appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). Ceramics manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke are delighted that our new free trade agreement with Australia will bring opportunities to export more of our outstanding products. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a fantastic boost for this iconic British industry and the world capital of ceramics, Stoke-on-Trent? (903640)

I thank my hon. Friend for being such a champion for his constituency and for this sector in particular. He is right that these deals will make it less costly and much easier to sell those iconic products. I know that he will be encouraging pottery firms in his constituency to ship to Australia and New Zealand, benefiting from the removal of the 5% tariff.

T4.   During recess, I visited a constituent on his farm. We discussed how farmers want a level playing field when it comes to trade, and their concerns about the Government’s trade agreements undercutting UK food standards. Will the proposed deal with Australia reduce tariffs on meat produced using growth-promoting antibiotics, which UK farmers are banned from using? If so, how is it consistent with the repeated promises made to our farmers that they would not be undermined by food produced to lower standards than they are required to meet? (903639)

We have been crystal clear on this. We will not compromise our high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards. That is non-negotiable.

T6. The port of Southampton is one of the busiest container ports in the UK. Between 80% and 90% of containers arriving at the port are from the far east. Now that we are free to negotiate and sign our own trade deals, will my right hon. Friend update the House on what progress she has made on securing deals with countries in the far east and how that will help to ensure that the port of Southampton thrives into the future? (903641)

The agreement in principle that we have just secured with New Zealand, in addition to being good in itself, helps pave the way towards the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, which will be hugely beneficial to my hon. Friend’s constituency. I thank him for the work that he has been doing in championing the Solent freeport, which will benefit Southampton but also another port just slightly further along the coast in which I have more than a passing interest.

T8. The former Secretary of State allowed the steel sector an additional year to appeal against the Trade Remedies Authority’s wrong-headed recommendations to remove safeguards. Do current Ministers share the sector’s concerns that without an extension of the safeguards, we risk becoming a magnet for imported steel, putting at risk thousands of high-paid, high-skilled jobs and millions of pounds of economic value? (903644)

We took a very careful and measured approach to this difficult issue. We are determined to back the steel sector, but we will do so in a WTO-compliant way. The Trade Remedies Authority is working very hard on this issue.

T7. With almost all my immediate family living in New Zealand and as a regular visitor there in more normal times, may I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the work she has done to secure the free trade agreement, and provide my assurance that there is a market there for British businesses that is very keen to grow? How, during the course of the development of free trade agreements, do she and her Department engage with the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which are also very keen to benefit from the advantages of our new-found freedoms now we are no longer in the EU? (903642)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for all that he says. He is right that we should be ambitious not only for the United Kingdom herself, but for the Crown dependencies. The Crown dependencies are an important part of our family and the Department for International Trade has developed a very strong working relationship with both officials and Ministers from their Governments. They are consulted prior to the launching of FTAs and consistently engage with us as the agreements progress towards signature and implementation.

T9. Ministers have repeatedly told this House that trade does not need to come at the expense of human rights, yet in Colombia this year alone 43 people were killed by police during protests in April and May. More than 100 social leaders have been murdered and former FARC combatants continue to be targeted at an appalling rate. Does the Secretary of State not agree that those are grounds to follow recent calls from Colombian trade unions and the TUC to suspend Colombia’s membership of the UK-Andean trade agreement by invoking its human rights clause? (903645)

We will always look very closely at any abuses of rights and responsibilities around the world. The agreement the hon. Lady refers to is based on an EU agreement, which provided us and businesses across the country with continuity. It is important that we ensure we balance the objectives across our trade agreements to deliver benefits for British businesses. I know that British businesses across the north-east value greatly that agreement.

What progress has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the team made on increasing trade with Israel, our good friend and partner, particularly in the pharmaceutical and high-tech industries?

Trade with Israel is going from strength to strength. My hon. Friend is right to raise the opportunities in tech in particular for the future. We are probing and scoping for better and deeper trade relations, including a future revised trade agreement that will allow us to do much more in the years ahead.

Because of poorly negotiated ideology-driven free trade deals, farmers will have no choice, if their businesses are to survive, but to resort to more intensive, less climate-friendly farming to compete with cheaper imports from such places as Australia—pretty shameful in the year that the UK hosts COP. Has the Department for International Trade, alongside colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, analysed how this shift will impact on local pollution levels and our wider greenhouse gas footprint?

I am sorry to hear that very pessimistic question. I do not think our farmers in the UK are going to do that at all. I think they care deeply about animal welfare and I think they care deeply about the environment. I look forward to the press release from the Scottish Government championing the benefits to Scottish businesses that come from the New Zealand trade deal that we talked through with them yesterday. They are considerable and they ought to start talking up their businesses, their farmers and their food and drink sector, rather than doing it down.

May I first welcome the new ministerial team and of course the new parliamentary private secretaries, who I am sure will do as good a job as the previous ones? [Laughter.] I welcome the announcement today of an agreement in principle on the free trade deal with New Zealand. Can my right hon. Friend please confirm that the new free trade deals, such as the one that has been agreed today, are good for consumers and also open up export markets for our farmers?

I thank my hon. Friend for his efforts when he was a PPS, sitting behind the previous team, and I know that he will continue to champion all that is good and exciting and the future benefit for our businesses as we look forward to future trade deals. The opportunities to slash tariffs, create new markets and build preferential relationships with our friends and allies through new trade deals will continue to be something that we see our businesses champion and come to talk to us about. I challenge all colleagues to share with us, as the team, the areas of interest for their businesses and constituencies, so that we know that we are pushing in all those areas— many of which we have discussed today—that are important to our great UK businesses.

Sir David Amess was due to ask a question today and I suspect that, as chair of the all-party British-Maldives parliamentary group, he would have reiterated previous questions about support for the very sustainable fishing industry there. As part of the all-party group on small island developing states, which includes the Maldives, I therefore feel honour-bound to pursue that cause on his behalf. Why are we requiring 20% import tariffs on tuna from the Maldives? It is a highly sustainable sector and other SIDS do not have the same tariffs. What progress is being made on negotiating an economic partnership agreement or finding some other way to remove this unfair barrier?

The hon. Lady rightly refers to our late colleague, Sir David Amess, and his brilliance in championing the issues of people not only across our country, but across the world. His representations on behalf of the Maldives remain firmly lodged in my mind. Along with the Secretary of State, I will certainly continue to be committed to working with our friends and allies across the Commonwealth, including in the Maldives. The Maldives does not benefit from an agreement because the EU had not secured an agreement with the Maldives. I am looking very closely at what we can do now that we have taken back control of our trade policy—[Interruption.] Although Opposition Members do not wish to listen to my answer, I refer to my answer from the last International Trade questions, when I said that we would look very closely at what we could do in that regard.

With nearly 70 free trade deals now signed and the fact that the British people voted to leave political union with the European Union, does the Secretary of State agree that Opposition Members would have kept us in the single market and in the customs union, and we would not have been able to negotiate the free trade deals that we now have around the country, including the one announced with New Zealand? This now puts us in pole position to be the global leader that we are.

As we have heard, human rights are too often forgotten in our trade deals. I believe that the Foreign Secretary is now courting Saudi Arabia even more, to name just one of the countries that has a dubious record. When will the Government start getting serious about human rights and make it clear to countries around the world that until they get their human rights records sorted out, they are not going to get trade deals with the UK?

The hon. Gentleman does not seem to value trade around the world as a force for good. By having strong economic relationships, we can have honest and open conversations with trading partners, and we will continue to do so. In the Gulf, we have the opportunity to trade with a market of 50 million people, 30 million of whom, I believe, are in Saudi Arabia. The opportunities for trade are great and we will not let that sentiment from the Labour party get in the way of more trade for the benefit of our people. At the same time, if he had listened to the Secretary of State earlier, he would have heard that more trade will never come at the expense of our values.

The UK is already one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world and this investment is vital to levelling up the country, particularly investment in new technologies and green innovation. Will the Secretary of State confirm that she is working to encourage this type of investment to help us to progress to net zero emissions and deliver on the Prime Minister’s excellent 10-point plan?

Absolutely. The Global Investment Summit, which we hosted earlier this week in London, saw 200 of the world’s most important investors coming to London to hear how they could be part of the UK’s world leadership in green technologies; £6 billion of investment was committed to offshore wind and millions to many, many different new technologies. We had the opportunity to showcase many of the UK’s leading future solutions to our green challenge and we look forward to continuing to increase that inward investment to help us to deliver them.

Will the Department agree to consider evidence gathered by the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into carbon border taxes or, better still, initiate an inquiry of its own?

This is an important area of policy. I would be very happy to sit down and discuss the Committee’s findings. It will continue to be a key area post COP26 as through the UNFCCC system we try to find something that can work across the planet, to make sure that we can be as effective as possible in using carbon pricing to help drive the green solutions that we all need.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the news that she has begun discussions on a new export and investment partnership between the UK and Italy. Does she agree that enhancing our bilateral relationship with Italy will boost export opportunities and investment promotion for our businesses?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting an important G20 discussion that I had last week with the Italian Trade Minister. We launched a UK-Italy dialogue, which will be an opportunity to continue to grow the already substantial £14 billion in exports that we have with Italy and the £30 billion in overall bilateral trade so that we can build those relationships with one of our close European allies. We look to do more in bilateral relationships with many of our European neighbours.

Speaker’s Statement

The House will be aware that today we are in the unusual situation of having an urgent question and a statement on the same subject, covid-19. I want to explain why this is the case.

The Government decide whether to make a statement; I decide whether to grant an urgent question. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Government should make important announcements in this House first. Once again, however, an important announcement was made by the Department of Health and Social Care to the media yesterday before being made to this House. This is not acceptable.

As I have warned the Government, in those circumstances I will allow the House the earliest opportunity to hear from a Minister, in this case via an urgent question. If they want to avoid a similar situation in future, all the Government have to do is make sure that announcements are made here first, not to the media.

I will make one further point. I understand that yesterday the Secretary of State made an announcement not just about important policy matters, but setting out his views about how Members should behave in this Chamber—that is to say, whether they should wear masks. That only strengthens the case that he should come here. If he wants to talk about this House, he should not do it from Downing Street; he should do it to the Members he is talking to.

I know that it is a sensitive day because of our great colleague James Brokenshire’s funeral—I understand that—but last night we put on an emergency statement: the Home Secretary came to me and we put it on. I will work with any Secretary of State or any Minister to avoid the embarrassing situation in which they think it more appropriate to brief the media than brief this House. It will not happen; if it does, we will see more urgent questions, and Government business will get blocked. That is not what I want. I want us to work together, but I want due respect for Members elected to this Chamber. I hope that that only strengthens the case that in future we get it right and that all comments should be made here before being made anywhere else.

I do feel sorry, because this is not aimed at the Minister—far from it. It is a reminder, and I am sure she will take it back to the Secretary of State: please remember that we are all elected here, not in the corridors of Downing Street or on the front doorstep.

Covid-19: Government Response

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make a statement on the Government’s response to covid-19.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for his question and for the opportunity to answer questions from across the House in addition to my oral statement later this morning. Before I do so, I want to underline our commitment to keeping the House informed.

Yesterday’s announcement on the procurement of new antiviral treatments was made to Parliament via a written ministerial statement. The purpose of the Secretary of State’s press conference was to appeal directly to the public to come forward for their vaccines, including the 4.7 million people over the age of 18 in England who have not accepted the vaccine. We need those who are eligible to do so to take up the offer of a booster jab as we pursue plan A to its full extent.

I thank the Minister for that answer.

Yesterday the Secretary of State said that the pressures on the NHS were sustainable, but we are seeing ambulances backed up outside hospitals, patients waiting hour upon hour in A&E, cancer operations cancelled, and NHS staff exhausted. Has there ever been, in the history of the NHS, a more complacent attitude on the part of a Secretary of State as we head into winter? Yesterday the Secretary of State refused to trigger plan B. Can the Minister tell us what is the criterion for triggering it?

Newspapers report today that a plan C—no household mixing—is being considered: a lockdown by the back door. When the Business Secretary ruled out a lockdown yesterday, was that just another example of his making things up as he goes along in interviews? The Minister for Health, the hon. Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), said on the radio today that that plan was not

“something that is being actively considered.”

Members should note the qualifying adverb “actively”. We do not want a return to the dark days of lockdown; nor do we want to see regional lockdowns, or local lockdowns like those that we saw in Leicester, Bolton and Burnley. Can the Minister rule out such lockdowns?

Is the truth not that we are in this situation because the vaccination programme is now stalling? Ministers cannot blame the public when 2 million people have not even been invited for a booster jab, and on current trends we will not complete the booster programme until March 2022. There are currently just 165,000 jabs a day; will the Minister make a commitment to 500,000 a day, and ensure that the programme is completed by Christmas?

The Minister will know that the highest concentration of infections is among children, but only 17% of children have been vaccinated. This is a stuttering roll-out of the children’s vaccination programme—and does it not expose the folly of cutting the number of school nurses and health visitors who support these immunisation programmes in our communities?

Only 36% of over-65s have been vaccinated against flu. We hear stories of cancelled flu jabs at GPs’ surgeries, and of pharmacists saying that they do not have enough supplies. Why are supplies apparently running so low? With infections, meanwhile, running so high, Ministers need to stop vacillating and get vaccinating.

The wall of defence is crumbling. We know that we have to get ahead of this virus, because otherwise it gets ahead of us. How will the Minister fix this stalling vaccination programme?

Let me first thank the right hon. Gentleman for his co-operation throughout the pandemic. However, I am a bit disappointed with his tone today. What we are seeing is the Government carrying out the plans that have been laid before Parliament—the autumn and winter plans involving plan A and plan B—and as the Secretary of State rightly said yesterday, plan A is still what we are working to.

Our vaccines have created a wall of defence. It is incredible how many people have taken up the offer, not just for the first jab but for the second, and are now coming forward for their boosters. In fact, at the start of the week 5.4 million people were eligible for their booster jabs, and 4 million people had taken up that opportunity: 4 million arms had been jabbed.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about 12 to 15-year-olds. We are now able to offer more choice to parents wanting to take their children to vaccination centres. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is important for the choice of where children get their jabs to be as wide as possible to ensure that everyone has that opportunity. It is also important to ensure that the 4.7 million people who have not yet taken up the offer of the first jab are encouraged to come forward, because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the vaccines are our wall of defence.

The flu vaccine programme, too, is extremely important, and people are now being called forward for the flu jab that is helping to protect us throughout the winter months. My message is this: if you receive a call for a flu jab, do not wait to receive a call for your booster jab, and vice versa. Get whichever jab you are invited for first, and that will help to protect you, your family and the people around you.

Last week, the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee published a report saying that the vaccine roll-out was one of the biggest and most impressive achievements in British public administration in our lifetime, and I want to pay tribute to the Government and to the vaccines Minister for what has been achieved. But in truth, at its peak in the spring, we were jabbing 400,000 people a day; now it is fewer than 200,000 people a day. If we look at our higher hospitalisations, cases and death rates compared with countries such as France and Germany, we can see that the heart of it is not actually things like mask wearing and covid passports; it is their higher vaccine immunity. So I want to ask the Minister two questions.

First, on the decision that people cannot have their booster jab until six months after their second job, how hard and fast should that rule be? Does it really matter, when it is only nine weeks until the Christmas holidays, if someone has their booster jab after only five months? Should we not look at having some flexibility on that decision, so that we can get more people in for their booster jabs more quickly? Secondly, at the risk of making the Minister blush, does she not need to be a Cabinet Minister? Is it not one of the issues that the previous vaccines Minister sat at the Cabinet table and that she does not? This is such an important thing for our national defence against the virus and our utter determination to avoid another lockdown. Do we not need a vaccines Minister sitting around the Cabinet table as we did before?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his questions. I would like to reassure him that I have regular meetings with the Prime Minister and that the Prime Minister takes the vaccine roll-out extremely seriously, as does the Secretary of State. Regarding the timescale for the eligibility for boosters, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has provided advice that there should be a minimum of six months after the second jab, but I would like to reassure the House that the immunity does not fall off a cliff edge. It has waned slightly but not sufficiently, so there is still time for people to come forward. Obviously, we are encouraging them to come forward as soon as they are eligible, but they still have a huge amount of immunity over and above those who have yet to get their first jab.

With infection levels worryingly at previous lockdown levels, with the Government being accused of having taken their foot off the brake by the British Medical Association, and with NHS leaders calling for the reintroduction of restrictions, the Secretary of State’s stance of not implementing plan B at this point does not look credible. It looks like a repeat of the previous mistakes of acting too late. If the Government will not now follow Scotland’s lead and bring in measures such as mask wearing to reduce infection, how much worse must things get before they implement a plan B?

Our vaccines programme has really created a wall of defence. We are in plan A, and there is still more that can be done as part of plan A. That is why I am calling on the 4.7 million people who have yet to come forward for their first jab and on others to have their booster jab as soon as they are eligible, as well as encouraging 12 to 15-year-olds to get their jab as soon as they have the opportunity.

May I associate myself strongly with the Speaker’s statement earlier? It really should not be difficult for Ministers to come to this House to make statements, rather than doing so at press conferences. I really do think that the Speaker’s words should be taken on board by those on the Treasury Bench. It is worth saying that the number of patients in hospital with covid is lower now than it was a month ago. That is worth saying because it puts things into some context. My question is this, though, following on from the Chairman of the Health Committee. At the press conference yesterday, the Secretary of State seemed to imply that there was some reluctance among the public to come forward for booster doses. The headline in all the papers this morning was that if people do not come forward for their booster dose, we will have restrictions back. I can see no evidence that the public are not coming forward for their booster dose when asked, so can the Minister set out clearly whether there is a problem with people coming forward when asked? If the slowness of the roll-out is actually to do with the way in which either the NHS or Ministers are administering it, leading to a problem later in the autumn, that would be on Ministers and not on the public.

My right hon. Friend is right to say that the number of hospitalisations is now lower than it was a few months ago. People do not need to wait to be contacted by their GP, community pharmacy or the NHS to come forward for their booster jab, so long as they are six months plus one week past their second jab. We are encouraging everybody to come forward, even if they have not formally been invited, by dialling 119 or going online.

I have been fortunate in the past few weeks to go to both France and Italy. Both countries have vaccination rates very similar to the UK’s—in fact Italy has a slightly higher rate now—but the difference is that a person cannot go on public transport or into a supermarket without wearing a face mask, and they cannot go into a bar, restaurant or leisure centre without showing a health passport. Infection rates in those countries are now around a tenth of the infection rate in this country. Does the Minister accept those public health measures have brought down those countries’ infection rates well below our level, or does she think there are other reasons why infection rates are so much higher in our country than in Italy and France?

We laid before the House our autumn and winter plan, which outlines the non-pharmaceutical interventions on which people can make their own decisions, because we believe people can make informed choices. As people see the levels rising, they will look at the guidance again and perhaps make the decision to wear a face covering in more venues.

Will the Minister ensure that an obsession with non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as mask wearing, does not obscure the central message that the way out of this is through the continuation of the UK’s excellent vaccination programme? Will she ensure that the wind is not taken out of the sails of that vaccination programme as we enter a perilous part of this cycle in the winter months? And will she ensure that the evidence that monoclonal antibodies and antivirals given to test-positive vulnerable people before hospitalisation reduces their mortality is rolled out into recommendations so that such people can receive interventions that stand every chance of reducing their mortality and ensuring their recovery, thus reducing the burden on the national health service?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point that our vaccination programme is the best wall of defence we can have. That is why, once again, I have made the call for everybody to have their first jab, if they have not had it, and their booster jab when they are eligible, and for 12 to 15-year-olds to have their jab when they can. As he rightly says, and he has much knowledge of this subject, monoclonal antibodies and antivirals will make big inroads into protecting the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed. We welcome the antivirals that were announced yesterday, and over the coming months we hope they will be recognised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

If the vaccination programme is, as the Minister rightly says, our best defence against covid, why are the Government so complacent about improving vaccination rates? In Nottingham, despite the hard work of partners, less than half of under-30s have had both doses of the covid vaccine. What is she doing right now to ensure that places with lower take-ups succeed in getting more people vaccinated?

The hon. Lady raises the issue of the differential uptake in different age groups. This is why the Government and the NHS have been keen to reach out to different age groups through different mechanisms, such as using shopping centres, football stadiums and pop-up sites. That will be continuing as we move forward in the coming weeks and months.

When we are increasingly concerned about mental health, the mask the Minister was wearing only moments ago denies us the fellowship and reassurance of her friendly facial expression, but the material of which it is composed has gaps that are 5,000 times bigger than the virus, does it not?

Like my right hon. Friend, I look forward to the time when we do not need to wear face coverings, because I love to see everybody’s smiling faces. However, we need to make sure that we all get jabbed, so that we can get to that stage.

Just yesterday, the Italian Prime Minister pointed at this country as an example of what not to do. We are now such an embarrassment that we are encouraging people elsewhere to follow the rules. Meanwhile, Government sources are this morning briefing that the approach the Government are taking is tantamount to herd immunity. We all know how we feel about Government sources, so can the Minister be clear: is herd immunity the plan? If it is not, what is?

I am disappointed in the hon. Lady’s approach, because we have led the way not only in vaccines, sourcing them very early on, but in antivirals. It is fantastic news that we were first with vaccines and that, through the Prime Minister’s setting up the antivirals taskforce, we now have the opportunity of some antiviral tablets as well, which will make a huge, huge difference. We are continuing to lead the world.

Mr Speaker was right to blow a gasket this morning about the Government yet again announcing major policy in a press conference and not coming to this House. The excellent Minister at the Dispatch Box has been sent in on a sticky wicket without a bat. Would it be possible for her to tell us what bright spark in Downing Street thought it right that this House should be held in contempt so that they can get their communications strategy right? If she cannot tell me that now, perhaps she can tell me when she comes back later.

I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that the Secretary of State laid the written ministerial statement in the House yesterday outlining the antiviral announcement that was made in Downing Street last night.

The Minister said a few minutes ago that the level of protection from vaccination is still very high in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) pointed out that we have similar vaccination levels to those of France and Italy, but she did not answer him on what the difference was on infection rates. Does she believe that the reason they have so much lower levels of infection, hospitalisation and death in France and Italy than in this country is the range of measures that he outlined, or does she believe there is some other reason for that? If not, will she say why the Government have not introduced similar measures, including mask wearing, ventilation in buildings and the kind of green passes my hon. Friend mentioned?

There is a chance I might sound like a broken record, but our vaccines really are our wall of defence and our first line of defence. We must continue to make sure that everybody comes forward for their first dose, second dose and booster dose, and this includes 12 to 15-year-olds.

I thank the Minister for her work on this and I welcome the advanced treatments. When I speak to people in Scunthorpe, I find that they are really concerned about any potential increase in restrictions. They are right to be worried about that, but we also understand that this is an incredibly challenging situation for the Government to balance. Will she once again reassure people in Scunthorpe and our surrounding villages that should the Government conclude that further restrictions are necessary, this House will have a proper opportunity to debate, discuss and vote on those measures?

I reassure my hon. Friend that we are following plan A and we still have more to do in plan A to put in place all the measures to protect our communities—people in constituencies throughout the UK—and to continue to build that wall of defence and to have our freedoms.

If the Government believe that the NHS is not under pressure, I urge the Minister to speak to NHS and care workers in Newcastle, for whom the pressure is becoming unbearable.

There are measures that we can all take to protect the NHS, yet it is clear to me from travelling on Newcastle’s metro and buses that many people are not wearing masks. Constituents have written to me to express their concern, so will the Minister reiterate the Secretary of State’s urging that we all wear masks? Will she explain why she will not make the wearing of masks mandatory? Will she commit that her Conservative MP colleagues will start doing so?

Plan A outlines the guidance that is in place and that is the guidance that people should be following. It is up to individuals to work out what works for them and what is best for them. Plan B incorporates the mandatory wearing of masks, but we are on plan A.

The news of the new antiviral treatments that we heard about yesterday is very welcome, as is, of course, the fastest vaccine roll-out programme in the world.

We voted to break our manifesto commitment in order to give the NHS billions of pounds more of our constituents’ money, primarily to deal with the covid backlog, yet there is a depressingly familiar drumbeat on moving towards plan B and plan B+, and plan C is in the papers today—as mentioned by the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth)—without mention of a penny of that new money.

May I ask the Minister about jabbing our young people? The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation came up with one piece of advice and the chief medical officer was asked to come with another one, until we got the answer that we wanted from him; does the Minister think that has something to do with why parents are confused? What more can she and her office do to convince the parents of teenagers that vaccination is in the interests of the young person? That will hopefully then drive up vaccination rates as vaccines go online according to the schedule in schools.

I reassure my hon. Friend that there is a lot of communication through schools and directly to parents and children to ensure that they understand the importance of 12 to 15-year-olds receiving their jabs, which will protect not only them but their loved ones.

As we approach the second year of covid, it is astonishing that so many Members on the Conservative Benches still try to make out that to be vaccinated and to wear a mask are alternative protections. That is a bit like saying, “If you have brakes on your car, why should you bother with a steering wheel and a seatbelt?” I was pleased that yesterday the Secretary of State repeatedly emphasised the need for everyone to wear face masks unless they had a genuine reason for exemption. Is it not very noticeable that more masks are visible on the Conservative Benches today than were visible yesterday, when those Benches were full for Prime Minister’s questions? Is that an indication that Conservative MPs have been told that they have to practise what the Secretary of State preaches and wear their masks in all circumstances in which the advice says they are needed?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am wearing my face covering today out of choice and because I believe it is the right thing to do.

We know that the success of any public health roll-out comes through working closely with local councils and local government, so will the Minister let the House know when she last spoke to the Association of Directors of Public Health or the Local Government Association about the potential plan B and how it would be successful?

I have spoken to numerous stakeholders with regard to my portfolio. I reassure the hon. Lady that we address the issues as and when we need to.

When I speak to my constituents I sense there is an element of uncertainty as to exactly who is entitled to a booster vaccination. May I ask the Minister to be really clear for my constituents in Warrington: who is eligible and how can they check?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is really important to make sure that people understand that, if they had their second jab six months ago, plus one week to allow for a bit of admin, they are eligible. They may get a text or a letter from the NHS, but if they do not, they can go online or phone 119 to book their jab.

Some months ago, the Prime Minister rolled up to Billingham in my constituency for a picture opportunity that Fujifilm scheduled for the manufacture of the Novavax vaccine starting around now. Since then the Government have gone very quiet about this new product and we have recently learned that the thousands of people who volunteered to take part in the Novavax trials are being given alternative vaccines to ensure that they are properly covered. While Fujifilm has assured me that the delay in the vaccine being submitted for approval will not affect jobs in Billingham, Novavax cannot be bothered to respond to the local MP. The Government have already ordered tens of millions of doses. Can the Minister offer a progress report on the trials and approval process for Novavax?

First, let me say a huge thank you to everybody who came forward to take part in clinical trials. Without those volunteers, we would not be where we are today, having the amazing vaccines that are helping to save lives. To ensure that I have the absolute up-to-date information, may I write to the hon. Gentleman on the latest with regards to those specific trials?

The problem is that the Government have put all their eggs in one basket with the vaccine when they should also be implementing public health measures and providing clear leadership on that. They should also restore the contact tracing that local authorities were doing with great success in locking down the virus. The Government took that right away from them, so will the Minister restore contact tracing to local authorities?

The Government have a range of measures. We have vaccines; we are world leading on antivirals; and we have lots of other measures. As I go about my constituency, I see many people blipping into venues, wearing their face coverings when they are shopping and lots of different things. It is important that people have that choice and make decisions based on the current circumstances.

Low-paid frontline workers without access to decent sick pay have been most likely to lose their lives during the crisis. Is it not those workers who will pay the price for this complacency?

The Government have been extremely generous in their support throughout this pandemic and will continue to be so.

I wish the Minister well in her new role. Will she outline what plans are in place to begin to get on top of waiting lists, for example on breast reconstruction post mastectomy, hip replacements and tonsil operations? Will additional funding be made available to outsource work to private hospitals to reduce waiting lists and to give people back their health, mobility and confidence?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I reassure him that a lot of investment is being put into the health service, as I am sure he is aware, to ensure that we can tackle the backlog that has been created because of the pandemic.

I gather there may be a point of order. Did somebody wish to raise a point of order? We need to move on. There should be a statement from the Secretary of State.

Can you advise me how best to deal with the stress levels created by this morning’s timetable? I do not mean to complain—I am a big girl—but, quite frankly, I had departmental questions this morning, we heard on the grapevine that there was going to be a statement on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, for which we have been waiting for more than six months, and we also heard last night that there was going to be a deal with New Zealand.

I got a copy of the Government statement on the deal with New Zealand at six minutes past 10 this morning, when I was obviously on my feet dealing with departmental questions here. I do not complain about where my office is, as I have a wonderful office, but it does take quite a long time to get to it. I need to get to it, pick up the statement that has been given to me by the Government, read it, write what I am going to say, make sure that it is only half the length of the statement and then come back.

I also want to make reference, of course, to the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which the Government have said is a really important part of any future deal that they negotiate, because of the grave concerns that farmers have about their future business, to which the TAC is supposed to be part of the remedy. We got a written ministerial statement, which I received 20 minutes ago while running back from my office. [Laughter.] I got a ministerial statement at six minutes past 10. We have to put all those things together. Although in many ways it is funny, if I was a frontline farmer I would not find this funny at all.

I thank the right hon. Lady for that point of order. I very much suspect that the Secretary of State should also thank the right hon. Lady for that point of order. We have had some examples this morning of the way in which not to do business in this House. It is vital that Secretaries of State ensure that they are here in good time for their statements. I think that expresses the opinion of all in this House. Stress levels have been raised by this, so the best thing now is to move on as quickly as possible. I am sure that the International Trade Secretary will want to apologise—I call her to make her statement.

Free Trade Agreement: New Zealand

Let me first thank the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) for what I am sure were, as always, wise words in her point of order, and for the opportunity to set out to the House some of the key issues that we will be discussing. I take absolute note of the points that have been raised.

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the new agreement in principle between the UK and New Zealand on our free trade agreement, which we are working towards delivering.

Yesterday, the UK agreed in principle the main details of a trade deal. A UK-New Zealand free trade agreement will be another major trade deal, like our agreement with Australia. This marks a significant step towards the UK’s aim to join the £8.4 trillion comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership free trade area. The UK-New Zealand trade relationship was worth £2.3 billion last year and is set to grow under the deal. Both Prime Ministers have heralded the new partnership, which will take on some of the biggest global challenges, from climate change to gender equality, respect for indigenous communities and the future of digital trade.

This deal is part of the Government’s commitment to building back better, bringing the benefits of trade to level up all parts of the country. Our shared history with New Zealand, common values and commitment to free trade is matched by a dedication to high standards and the rule of law. It makes complete sense to do a trade deal with New Zealand, and it will continue to strengthen our long-standing relationships as key allies and friends.

We have laid out the core benefits of a deal as per the agreement in principle. A comprehensive trade agreement with New Zealand will slash red tape and deepen access for our advanced tech and services companies, while making it easier for smaller businesses to break into the New Zealand market. UK workers will benefit from better business travel arrangements to New Zealand, and UK professionals such as lawyers and architects will be able to work in New Zealand more easily, allowing UK companies to set up shop in New Zealand and bring the best British talent with them.

High-quality New Zealand products that British consumers love will become more affordable, from Marlborough sauvignon blanc to manuka honey and kiwi fruit. The new agreement in principle means that existing tariffs as high as 10% will be removed on a huge range of UK goods, from shoes to ships and from buses to bulldozers, giving British exporters an advantage over international rivals in the New Zealand import market, which is expected to grow by 30% by 2030.

Throughout negotiations, we have remained in close contact with businesses, farmers and other stakeholders. We will back British farmers in opening up new export opportunities, such as to the CPTPP markets, which are expected to account for a quarter of global import demand for meat by 2030. The agreement in principle adds momentum for accession to CPTPP, of which New Zealand is a key member. CPTPP had a joint GDP of £8.4 trillion in 2020 and includes some of the biggest economies of the present and the future, from Japan and Mexico to Malaysia and Singapore. By 2030, two thirds of the world’s middle classes will be in Asia, creating unparalleled opportunities for UK businesses. Britain needs to be positioned in the coming decades to trade freely with these high-growth parts of the world.

The Governments of New Zealand and the United Kingdom now intend to finalise the free trade agreement text before signature and subsequent entry into force of the deal. Once signed, the deal will be presented to Parliament and published on, alongside an independently scrutinised impact assessment. There will be full and robust scrutiny of the deal, including time for the relevant parliamentary Committees to produce a report on the deal before it is ratified. In addition, the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, chaired by Professor Lorand Bartels, will provide expert and independent advice to the Government and Parliament once the deal has reached signature stage. The new commission will look specifically at how the deal is consistent with relevant domestic statutory protections, ensuring that world-leading British agricultural standards are upheld. This agreement will strengthen ties between two nations committed to free and fair trade, delivering strategic and economic benefits to the United Kingdom.

This agreement in principle on a free trade deal is a win-win for two natural trading partners. It is tailored to the UK’s strengths, slashes tariffs on our exports and deepens access for British businesses. Our like-minded democracies will now unite to take on great global challenges such as climate change while harnessing opportunities such as digital trade. A UK-New Zealand free trade agreement will show what global Britain can achieve as a sovereign trading nation.

This agreement in principle is just one part of our ambitious strategy to deepen trade ties with like-minded partners and ensure that these alliances create a more predictable, free and fair framework for British businesses. Free trade is not something to be frightened of or to run away from. We want to be working with allies to influence the rules of the game and, in today’s world, FTAs are the vehicles by which those rules are shaped.

This deal will be a modern partnership for the 21st century: two staunch democracies working together to meet global challenges from climate change to the future of digital trade. Together we will embrace the opportunities of the global marketplace to support jobs, enterprise and wealth creation. We will fuel our recovery from the covid crisis through free trade and demonstrate that it is part of the solution to the greatest challenges of our time. That is what this agreement in principle represents, and I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. While there is much to digest from last night’s agreement, I hope she will forgive me if, in the short time that I have, I focus on the impact of the deal on our farming communities.

As I have already mentioned today, according to the Government’s own forecasts, this deal will lead to reductions in growth and jobs in the UK’s farming sector because, as the scoping paper says,

“New Zealand producers may be able to supply UK retailers and UK producers at lower cost relative to domestic producers.”

In those circumstances, any other Government would normally keep in place quotas to stop their farmers from being undercut, but, just like with the Australia deal, our Government have set those quotas so high as to be utterly meaningless. In year 1 of this new deal, New Zealand can export four times as much lamb as it did last year before any tariffs kick in; it can export more butter to Britain than it has done in the past six years put together before facing a single tariff; and it can export 25 times more beef, entirely tariff-free, as it can right now with a 20% tariff. For all practical purposes, this deal therefore gives us unlimited, tariff-free trade from New Zealand to go with unlimited, tariff-free trade already agreed with Australia, confirming this as the precedent that every other major exporter will now expect to follow. Not just that, but we are eliminating the tariffs on dozens of products from Australia and New Zealand that fall well short of our domestic welfare standards. This includes our domestic restrictions on antibiotics, whose production is doing huge damage to the environment.

These are bad deals for our farming industry. They will undermine the competitiveness of our farmers and the standards that they are required to maintain. In other words, these deals are exactly what the Trade and Agriculture Commission was established to prevent. That brings me to the appointment of the new TAC members confirmed by the Secretary of State earlier and to the written ministerial statement, which the House has just received, containing her response to the TAC report, seven and a half months after it was submitted.

There are two crucial issues at stake in those announcements, and they are inextricably linked to the deals with Australia and New Zealand. The first concerns the TAC’s recommendations to establish a national framework of standards covering food safety, animal welfare and the environment, and to use that framework to determine which imports from Australia and New Zealand should benefit from the elimination of tariffs. We know that that recommendation is entirely feasible and entirely practical, because DEFRA Ministers are currently consulting on applying exactly the same principle when it comes to labelling food products for their impact on animal welfare. Their consultation proposes a clear distinction between

“baseline UK welfare regulations which UK farmers are required to meet”

and “imports of lower welfare” that are undercutting our farmers.

May I ask the Secretary of State three questions? Why has she rejected the recommendation on the use of a standards framework to determine the scope of tariff reductions? Can she confirm that, as a result, a number of products described by DEFRA as “imports of lower welfare” will have their tariffs reduced under the deals with Australia and New Zealand? Can she explain why it is possible to differentiate on standards when it comes to labels placed on imports, but not on the tariffs they face?

The second fundamental issue is around the role of the TAC in relation to Australia and New Zealand. Members of Parliament, the media, the public and, most of all, our farming communities were repeatedly promised last November that the new TAC would provide Parliament with an assessment of every trade deal for how it would affect the competitiveness of UK farmers and whether it would undercut the standards they are required to meet. No matter how that role was defined in statute, we all know what we were promised. If the new TAC is not going to assess these two trade deals in that way, not only is that utterly shameful, but it will turn the TAC into a total waste of time.

I hope the Secretary of State will honour those promises, because if we ever needed a better illustration of why we need the TAC to perform that role, we have it in the deals agreed with New Zealand and Australia. That is why it is more vital and more urgent than ever that the new TAC should be able to do the job that the House was promised and act as the voice of the farmer when it comes to passing verdict on these two new deals. I ask the Secretary of State again: will she let the TAC do its job?

I will do my best to answer the right hon. Lady’s questions. We are really pleased. The deal is really balanced and brings lots of exciting opportunities for our businesses and our consumers. We will see customs duties on 100% of tariff lines for originating products removed. The UK will eliminate tariffs on 96.7% of tariff lines on the day the FTA comes into force, and New Zealand will eliminate 100% on the day the FTA comes into force.

On beef, the UK will remove duties after 10 years, and the quota volume will increase in equal annual instalments to ensure that the markets can stabilise and grow as required. To the right hon. Lady’s point about the increase in sheepmeat capacity, the interesting thing with New Zealand is that it already has a much larger World Trade Organisation quota that it does not use with the UK because, as we discussed earlier, it has the opportunity to sell many of its meat products into the Asian markets, where it gets high prices. We are therefore not expecting New Zealand to use these quotas in these early years, but we look to the opportunity for us to work for mutual benefit. For butter, full liberalisation will be over a five-year period, and it is similar for cheese.

This is a really exciting deal, and not only for the food and agriculture sector. There is a huge amount of opportunity for our businesses, looking at the digital space in particular and service provision. I reiterate—we will keep saying it until the Opposition are willing to be comfortable with it, if required—that we will never compromise standards for food coming into the UK. I had an interesting conversation with a farmer just last week, who was perhaps more forward-thinking than some Opposition Members. As we have different pests and different soil types, the sorts of products used in other countries may be different, but that does not mean that the quality, standard or welfare is lower. We will always be clear that we will not accept the lowering of standards. We appreciate that different countries have to manage their climatic and environmental situations in different ways, so that will continue to be the case.

I am pleased that the right hon. Lady has seen the written ministerial statement just put out by the Department on the TAC response and the launch of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, which will be independent. It will have the opportunity to scrutinise all those free trade deals as they come forward, including, in the first instance, the New Zealand and Australia deals, once we have brought them to a full signed conclusion.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, in particular her reference to encouraging small businesses and the opportunities that the deal provides for them. Will she ensure that her Department focuses on small and medium-sized businesses and encourages them to enter the export market? On a wider point, prior to our misguided decision to join the European Community, we had good trading relationships with New Zealand, Australia and the wider Commonwealth. Will she assure that House that she will do everything possible to extend deals with our Commonwealth friends?

I thank my hon. Friend for his encouragement of the work that we are doing. In order to support and assist small and medium-sized enterprises, we want to champion their great products and services more widely than in the UK. Only a small proportion of businesses that could export, do so, and we are keen to ramp that up and give them support.

The export support service that was launched on 1 October supports businesses that are thinking about or are already exporting to the EU. We look to grow that as the service embeds. We also have the Open Doors campaign, which is an opportunity to help champion some of the fantastic UK goods and services that exist. We will continue to grow that too.

I charge all Members to come and talk to us about businesses in their constituencies and issues that they want us to champion as we go around the world and have the opportunity. In Commonwealth countries, there is much potential for mutual bilateral trade, so Members should help us to make sure that we are opening those doors for them.

I have looked hard to try to find something to welcome, so let me start with a positive: we welcome the promotion of trade in environmental goods and services, although naturally the detail will need to be reviewed.

The UK Government’s assessment shows that an FTA with New Zealand would bring zero benefit and, indeed, could lead to a contraction in GDP. The Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) talked earlier about timescales and giving it time, so can the Secretary of State tell us how long it will take for this deal to make up even 0.5% of the 14% drop in Scottish food and drink exports to the EU ?

Ministers have clearly shown that they need help in understanding Scotland’s trade, so will the Secretary of State ensure that the Scottish Government are involved in the detail of the agreement? Bilateral trade has important impacts and implications for services, so given the sector’s importance to Scotland, it is vital that the Scottish Government are also involved in those details.

The deal, as it stands, provides protections for meat imports only by phasing reductions to zero, which is opposed by the National Farmers Union. Will the Secretary of State look to build further protections into the agreement, such as tonnage quota systems and percentage controls? According to the Government’s figures, the deal will cut employment in our farming communities, but for what—possibly about £112 million? That is about half the cost of the Prime Minister’s new yacht. Is that really a good deal?

Some of our most fantastic brands and products come out of Scottish businesses and all the trade deals that we are putting together and negotiating have some of those at the top of our call list. We want to make sure that that continues by opening up more markets, which will provide opportunities for fantastic Scottish whisky, amazing Scottish beef and many other products, many of which are green products that are helping to solve some of the climate challenges that we all face. We want to make sure that those businesses can export not only to our EU partners but more widely, and we want to see that grow.

Built into the New Zealand agreement in principle are a clear set of quotas that grow over a number of years to ensure, on the hon. Gentleman’s point, that we can see those changes in imports work well with our own commerce. As I make new trade deals, I want to ensure that our farmers are finding new markets for their products. We are seeing, as I mentioned in my statement, a growth in markets across Asia, where the call for high-quality produce is growing by the year, and we want to make sure that our farmers and our businesses are part of that success.

May I use this opportunity to welcome my right hon. Friend to her place? I wish her all success, and I welcome this statement. Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about climate change. Could the Secretary of State outline how this new free trade agreement will promote our efforts to tackle climate change as well as growing our respective economies?

As I said earlier, it is absolutely critical to this Government that, as we find ways to grow our businesses and grow our economic growth, we also, right alongside, continue to champion, as we are with the presidency of COP26, the solutions that we all need to find to meet that climate challenge. This is a really exciting free trade agreement in which there is a very strong environment and climate change chapter, where we set out very clearly our mutual commitment to the Paris agreement and all that goes with that, and the challenge of keeping 1.5° C alive. For all our constituents, we should have confidence that that mutual support for meeting that challenge is absolutely embedded in this deal. We will have the opportunity, as our innovators and our businesses come up with new solutions, to take those goods and services to New Zealand with no tariff limitations.

Cambridge people care deeply about the quality of their food, and they will want to know that anything imported is produced to our high standards. I listened closely to the Secretary of State’s response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), and she did not address the question of the framework standards suggested by the previous Trade and Agriculture Commission. So can I ask her again: will the Government be adopting that framework or not?

As I have said, we recognise the importance that both countries attach to high welfare standards. New Zealand and the UK have committed together to a specific chapter on animal welfare reaffirming those key points about food production. Indeed, to the hon. Gentleman’s point, we will absolutely ensure always that goods coming into the UK do not fall below the standards that we set and that we want to ensure for the safety of our constituents.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on achieving this agreement in principle. Can I assume that it follows very similar lines to the agreement with Australia, so that we can have full triangulation for the UK with Australia and New Zealand, between whom there is already a unique relationship in their trade? Could she explain how this will assist and help in an even further expansion of free trade for this country through the CPTPP accession negotiations?

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. We have submitted our application to become a member of the CPTPP, which is a group of 11 countries that work together with a free trade agreement. We are the first new member to apply, and we are presently going through what I can only describe as an exam process as our legislative requirements are tested against its framework. It is incredibly important. New Zealand and Australia are two key partners within the CPTPP, and in having these two first free trade agreements with them, we are setting out very clearly what is important to us. As I say, with this New Zealand agreement today, we are setting out all the areas that are really critical to us and indeed to our businesses. It shows the importance that we will continue to give to what free and fair trade means. It is ensuring that our businesses are working in a fair and competitive environment so that they can sell their fantastic produce. I have the fantastic challenge and joy of being able to share that across the world. I am making sure that, as we look to that CPTPP market, through these first two trade deals we are setting out our important and, indeed, great offer.

Taking a piecemeal approach to trade agreements is having an impact in many sectors, but especially for farmers. What assessment have the Government made of the cumulative effect of all these free trade agreements on sectors such as farming?

The cumulative effect of more and more free trade deals is the opportunity for our fantastic businesses that provide goods and services to reach many more markets. The huge growth in population, and wealthier communities across Asia in particular, are markets that we want our businesses to have every opportunity to access, because we believe that our products are some of the best in the world.

I congratulate the Department and the Secretary of State on this announcement. I chair the all-party group for small and micro business, so will the Secretary of State set out what the trade deal means for small and microbusinesses, which are the backbone of our country, including in my constituency of Meriden?

Our small and medium-sized businesses, and indeed our micro, small and medium-sized businesses—known as MSMEs if said quickly—make up 95% of the backbone of our businesses. At the G20 trade talks last week, we discussed that area in some detail, because all nations across the G20 know that a business might be a microbusiness this year, but in 10 years’ time it could be a major business in any of those economies. As we build these trade deals, we want to ensure that things such as reductions in tariffs and the opening up of digital trade, mean opportunities for our small businesses today, so that they have the opportunity to become great trading businesses of the future.

The Secretary of State has a beautiful north-east constituency, and she knows that, like many of my constituents, I take great pleasure in the gorgeous north-east landscape with its wild hills and beautiful coastline. That is a consequence of small-scale farming, with high standards of animal protection, environmental protection, and sustainability. What does she say to north-east farmers who are facing huge levels of unfair competition from massive increases in New Zealand imports to this country? Will she guarantee that not one north-east farmer will fail as a consequence of this agreement?

The hon. Lady and I agree that Northumbrian lamb is, without a doubt, best in the world, and I am happy to say that to any New Zealander who wants to take me on and challenge me. We have meat imports from the EU that are much greater than those we now receive from New Zealand, and they will continue to be. As I have said, New Zealand has not taken up its quotas already, and I am not at all concerned that the high quality produce made by Northumbrian farmers, or indeed in any other part of our wonderful UK, will be put at risk. We are selling some of the best quality produce in the world, and that will continue to be the case. As we make new free trade deals, we will open up more markets for farmers to use.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on the agreement reached with New Zealand. She will know that Warrington has some of the finest gin production anywhere in the world. What will this agreement mean for small spirit producers in Warrington?

I did not know that Warrington was the centre of gin, but now I have discovered that I will have to go and visit as soon as possible. The trade deal strips away tariffs on all goods with rules of origin, and clearly a producer of Warrington gin, which absolutely is a Warrington gin, will have the opportunity to take their goods to market in New Zealand without tariffs. I look forward to championing Warrington gin, and all other forms of British gin.

I have not tasted gin-soaked lamb recently, so I am not quite sure what it tastes like, but that is by the way. What discussions have taken place with Ministers in the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs at the Northern Ireland Assembly to assess the impact on and benefits for Northern Ireland agriculture from this new deal? What protections are in place for our farming sector, to ensure that it continues to produce the high quality, ethically raised food that our Northern Ireland farmers within the United Kingdom produce on a daily basis?

My ministerial colleagues and I have regular discussions with our counterparts in all the devolved nations, and I know that such conversations went on with Ministers yesterday to really get a sense of, and to encourage, the exciting opportunities that now exist with the agreement in principle. As we move from this stage to finalisation—this is where it gets complicated, with pages and pages of legal text, and lawyers are required—there will be refinement to ensure that all those nations have their concerns and, indeed, the important issues that they want raised, crystallised into the final deal.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her work on the agreement, and for the particularly good news about sauvignon blanc. Will she please say a little more about the effect on manufacturing businesses and jobs, particularly in the north of England? What support may be available for those businesses that want to take advantage of the agreement and export to New Zealand?

I think many of us will be excited at the reduced price, potentially, of our glass of New Zealand wine of an evening. This goes in both directions. We will want to champion the opportunities for small businesses across our constituencies, and the Department is there to support and guide. We now have not only trade and investment hubs here in the UK but both trade commissioners and great trade envoys. I know that they will help us to champion the great businesses we have here to ensure that they are known and loved, and become part of the landscape of New Zealand’s markets.

The National Farmers Union of Scotland has just released a statement expressing great anger over this latest trade deal, describing it as

“merely a slow journey to allow New Zealand…unfettered access to food and drink UK markets.”

The Government keep saying that high food and environmental standards in the UK will continue for UK-produced goods, apparently failing to recognise, if I am being generous, that farmers will be forced to reduce those standards when they are competing against tariff-free goods produced to lower standards in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and, as those trade deals have set a precedent, all the other countries to follow. The National Farmers Union of Scotland sees that very clearly. Will the Secretary of State at least acknowledge its concerns and recognise that as a possibility?

The UK has some of the finest standards in the world, and indeed some of the finest produce, which is exported with great success across the world. As our landmark Environment Bill comes through and work continues to set out the new frameworks to support our farming communities since we have left the common agricultural policy, we will be working hand in glove with all our farming communities to ensure that they have the support and the drive to be successful 21st century farming businesses that are able to take up the opportunities that all the free trade deals—not only those with Australia and New Zealand but all those to come—will bring to take their great products into markets across the world.

Diolch, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the Secretary of State will be aware of similar concerns expressed by the agricultural unions in Wales overnight and this morning in the light of the agreement in principle. Given that the Government’s own analysis suggests that the number of people working in agriculture may be negatively impacted by this deal, I think those concerns are well founded. May I ask her, quite simply: how will Ceredigion farmers benefit from this deal?