My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, as far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Clause 2: Implementation of international trade agreements
1: Clause 2, page 2, line 22, leave out “(4)” and insert “(4A)”
My Lords, I am bringing forward amendments designed to maintain UK levels of statutory protection when implementing continuity trade agreements using the power in Clause 2 of the Trade Bill. The fact that I am able to do so is testament to the cross-party working that makes this House so valuable, and I have no doubt that this process has enhanced the legislation. I will speak to this amendment first and will respond to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering once we have heard their contributions.
The Government are clear that we will maintain our domestic standards as the UK leaves the EU—an objective shared by so many of your Lordships. As we have stressed during its passage through this House, the fundamental aim of the Trade Bill is to achieve continuity in our trading relationships. A key aspect of that continuity is to ensure that UK statutory protections are maintained. These protections are highly valued by our businesses and consumers and are an important component of the UK’s offer to the world.
Noble Lords will recall the productive debate on this issue on Report on 6 March. We have since held constructive discussions with a number of noble Lords—including the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Henig, the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Purvis of Tweed, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh—about how we can best reflect our shared objectives. I will now describe how we have achieved this.
This amendment restricts use of the power in Clause 2. It makes it clear that the power can be used only in a way that is consistent with the maintenance of UK levels of statutory protection in the listed areas. The term “UK levels of statutory protection” covers all UK domestic legislation relating to the protection of human, animal or plant life or health; animal welfare; environmental protection; and employment and labour. This includes retained EU legislation that is being brought into our domestic law as we leave the European Union. I will explain in a little more detail why we have fixed on the wording of these four categories.
First, we have chosen the formulation “protection of human, animal or plant life or health” because it is a broad description that includes, but is not limited to, the areas of food safety and public health. The purpose of this is to safeguard all legislative protections affecting human, animal or plant health. It may also be helpful to observe that this form of words is well understood in the WTO context, thus ensuring consistency with our wider international obligations.
Secondly, this amendment will ensure that environmental protection is secured. This is in line with the Government’s position on the environment, as reflected in the draft environment (principles and governance) Bill. Thirdly, it also ensures that the UK’s animal welfare legislation will be protected. Our animal welfare protections are held in high regard across the world, and we are clear that our trade policy should maintain them.
Lastly, we are making a statutory commitment in this amendment to uphold employment and labour protections. The Prime Minister is clear that we will not only protect existing workers’ rights but will, in time, seek to build on them. I again thank all noble Lords who have helped to shape this amendment. It achieves an important goal, which is both consistent with our trade policy and an improvement to the Bill.
My Lords, I find myself in unfamiliar territory—I might even say unknown territory—here, because I am supporting a government amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for having tabled the amendment, which is a rewritten version of some amendments from Report and Committee. We now have in the Bill protection for environmental, employment and animal welfare standards. That is a real success. Obviously, it does not go as far as I would like, but I am not sure how many Members of your Lordships’ House would support me on all the things that I would like to see in legislation.
I would like to check the phrasing in new subsection (4A), which I find a bit convoluted. Was that intentional? I would appreciate the Minister explaining the reasoning behind it. In particular, is she completely satisfied that it replicates the full extent of the Government’s promises about protecting standards and leaving the environment in a better state than we found it?
Those questions aside, this amendment is a very important development, and I hope that it provides a framework that the Government will build on in their future legislation—for example, in the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill and the environment Bill. It has taken a lot to get to this point. The Commons considered the issue in its consideration of the Bill, and it has taken your Lordships’ House until Third Reading to come to any kind of resolution beyond warm words. I hope that the Minister will confirm today that we will not have to battle over this in future Bills, and that it will be government policy to write it into legislation from day one.
Many Greens and progressives have been highly critical of international trade and globalisation because it has, to date, represented a race to the bottom. The failure of TTIP, for example, shows the level of public feeling against shadowy trade deals that threaten our hard-won standards. Some of the proponents of Brexit, of course, have suggested that the biggest advantage of leaving the EU is that we can have a bonfire of “red tape” so that we can strike new trade deals. Many of us shudder in fear at that prospect.
This amendment stops that thinking in its tracks. This really is the baseline level of protection that we should have in our trade deals. Our negotiators should be going into trade talks with these very clear red lines that cannot be up for debate. Going forward, I will be working with noble Lords to enshrine the principle of non-regression in the environment Bill and other Bills, so that the only way is up for environmental standards. I realise that the environment Bill is outside the Minister’s brief, but I would appreciate it if she could encourage her ministerial colleagues to pre-empt all our amendments by writing this stuff into the Bill in the first place.
As the Minister has described repeatedly in this process, British standards are highly regarded across the world and are part of our British brand. I thank all the people who have written to me and supported my work on the Bill. Compassion in World Farming was particularly helpful, alongside the Trade Justice Movement, Greener UK and Liberty. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has worked hard outside the Chamber to negotiate with the Minister to get us to this point—and it has been great fun to work with two passionate campaigners here in your Lordships’ House, the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady McIntosh of Pickering. Of course, I also repeat my thanks to the Minister and her officials for their generous time spent discussing these issues and bringing us to where we are today. This is the first step on a long journey, but I am happy to support the Government’s amendment today.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow a fellow campaigner and the sole Green Party representative in this place. I congratulate the Minister on taking her first Bill through this House and thank her for the graciousness and openness that she has demonstrated in the meetings and exchanges that we have had. I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Henig, for supporting my amendment and for reaching common ground on this issue, as we have witnessed today. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for showing his support, for his charm and graciousness and for not roaming in the gloaming as we did last week on the mobile phones SI. Above all, I acknowledge the work of the Minister in this regard.
I hope the Minister will not think me churlish of the spirit that she has shown in the text of the amendment, but it would be remiss of me not to say why I have tabled Amendment 4 for the purposes of debate today. I accept that it is a matter of language and semantics but, in the law, language is important. I understood her to say that guidance would be issued once the Bill had received Royal Assent, but guidance does not have statutory effect and I wonder what its legal status be. I do not take issue with her as much as the parliamentary and legal draftsmen in this regard.
As the Minister said in moving her amendment, we wish to maintain domestic standards when we leave the European Union. I point to the retained EU law—which I think we now call primary or principal law—on sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, in which it is generally understood that standards of food safety are paramount. That has been reflected in the campaign carried out by all the farming organisations, not least the NFU. However, the wording of the World Trade Organization and its committees states that:
“For all of these agreements, the WTO encourages international standards as it believes they are ‘less likely to be challenged legally in the WTO than if it sets its own standards’”.
That is the reason for tabling the amendment. It is a serious omission.
My noble friend said that proposed new subsection (4B)(a) to (d) covered food safety but, having seen epidemics almost every 10 years such as BSE, foot and mouth disease and the horsemeat scandal that could easily have been a food safety issue, I think that it is better to get it on the statute book.
I reiterate what the Minister said: there have been constructive discussions which have permitted us to coalesce around her Amendments 1 and 2. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has done, I put down a marker that we will return to this issue when the Agriculture Bill reaches this House. However, I again thank the Minister and congratulate her on getting us so far to Third Reading.
My Lords, perhaps I may make what I hope are reassuring noises about food safety. There has been much discussion here about the fear that our food safety will decline once we have left Europe. Across Europe there are 23 million cases of food poisoning a year and 5,000 deaths.
In the global food security index we tie, at number three, with the USA. Only Ireland and Singapore are ahead of us. Most European countries are way down that list, including, for example, Poland and Bulgaria. In other words, they should be keeping up with us. We would have an awful long way to fall before our food safety record could be compared with the very low standards prevailing in much of Europe. While one welcomes this amendment, in practice there is very little to worry about.
My Lords, this is the first time I have intervened on this Bill and I do so without any interests to declare, although back in the 1980s we had great discussions about the criteria for dealing with protected areas in the United Kingdom. This was because in the classification of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, UK national parks were regarded not as category 1 protected areas but as multi-use areas. The meaning of national park here was different from what it was in the United States, Australia or many other countries.
There used to be a three-legged approach to what happened in protected areas in the UK, based on the principles of environmental, economic and social balance. It seemed to me then—and still does—that that encapsulates all that one might expect without skewing the outcome in one direction or another. None of the four items in proposed new subsection (4B) in Amendment 2 refers to business economics or to the leisure and cultural activities of those who may be living and working in protected areas. This is an omission of some significance in regard to protected areas in the UK. Can the Minister say, therefore, whether the three-legged approach is still meant to be encapsulated in the four-legged one in proposed new subsection (4B)?
My Lords, I join the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, in congratulating the Minister on her work in bringing forward this amendment, which commits us to maintaining high standards of food production, welfare and environmental protection. I have, however, a few questions that I hope the Minister may be able to answer and thereby clarify certain small areas of concern.
The first question is on whether Amendment 2 applies only to trade deals that are rolled over from existing EU third-country deals, or to all future trade deals. Secondly, does Amendment 2 include all provisions in rolled-over regulations? My third question is about the phrase “levels of statutory protection”—does that include levels set out in policy guidance? Fourthly, following a comment by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, can the Government provide at this stage a commitment to non-regression on standards?
As an addendum, I echo a point made by my noble friend Lady Deech: the high standards of food safety in this country are at least in part attributable to the role of the Food Standards Agency, of which I had the privilege of standing as its first chairman. My final question to the Minister is: can she reassure this House that after Brexit the independence and powers of the Food Standards Agency will not be eroded, and will continue to provide regulatory effectiveness—and reassurance to the public that our high standards of food safety will be effectively assessed and managed by an independent body?
My Lords, those who have followed the progress of the Bill in this House will have seen that the Government have acted with integrity in recognising that some of us felt that an extra level of protection for the continuity agreements should be recognised in statute. Across the House, we are genuinely grateful to the Minister for the manner in which she has responded.
I shall raise a couple of points for clarification. I welcome the amendments. The House will be aware that, in the early stages of our consideration, the amendments that I tabled, which were supported by other noble Lords, sought that our obligations under the international agreements in these areas be recognised. From the discussions we have had with the Minister and the Government, we now have the Government’s settled view, which is to maintain UK levels of statutory protection. That is satisfactory, but aligning ourselves to the obligations in the international agreements would have addressed the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, about the different agencies and bodies operating under the obligations of the international agreements rather than those that have been transferred into UK statutory or regulatory provision. I understand that the former is harder to do and the latter is clearer in legislation.
We need clarification about maintaining UK levels of statutory protection. The level of statutory protection in Scotland or Wales in some of these areas may be higher than the level in England, and in some of these areas there will be interaction with devolved legislation. In some areas there will be Scottish legislation or Welsh regulations and English regulations applying only to England. Which is considered of higher status? We do not know yet. I will be interested in the Government’s view.
My second point perhaps addresses the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. We know that these regulations will be for the continuity agreement, and by definition they will be limited to the agreements to which we are already signatories and which we have already put into UK legislation. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and other noble Lords that this sets the framework we would like to see in the non-regression provisions in future trade agreements. In the Urgent Question just before this debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, was very keen to use the words “mandate in Parliament” with reference to the position of UK Ministers and making decisions with the European Union. In the way forward for these regulations, we are in effect starting to see an emerging set of parameters for a mandate for future trade agreements.
I have added my name to Amendment 3 on human rights. The complexity and sophistication of trade agreements are such that human rights are a key element that needs protection. Whether they relate to our commitments on modern slavery or to supply-train issues of human trafficking, trade agreements and our trading relationship with other countries bring in elements of human rights beyond purely trading relationships. That is why I was happy to put my name to this amendment, so that the Government can clarify how human rights are captured within it. The helpful briefing from the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicated that while the Human Rights Act 1998 does not fall within the scope of the delegated powers in this area, it is broadly satisfied with maintaining current levels of protection. It believes that sets a wider precedent that can be taken into consideration on issues such as human rights. I will be grateful if the Minister can confirm that the Government agree with that interpretation. It would be a great reassurance for us that human rights provisions are maintained in the continuity agreements and will set a precedent for future trade agreements.
I welcome the Government not only listening but acting in bringing forward their amendment.
My Lords, I would also like to thank the Minister for introducing this amendment and the following one—Amendment 2 —which she also spoke to. That amendment combines the thinking from Report stage Amendments 3 and 4 with further discussions that the Minister alluded to, which took place offline. These discussions have led to a broader understanding, reflected in the debate today, that it is worth having a clear and unambiguous statement in the Bill about our current standards for activities including,
“the protection of human, animal or plant life or health … animal welfare … environmental protection … employment and labour”,
and—to pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—ensuring no regression can occur as result of trade deals which are being rolled forward. The lead name on this amendment is the government Minister’s, and she has been joined by the Green, Labour and Conservative parties in that. This suggests that we have struck a feeling in the House that needs to be reflected in the wording.
Having said that, there is an amendment in my name, which I would like to raise for discussion although I will not press it, and there is an amendment on food safety in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, which has already been referred to. That points to three things that I would like to get on the record.
In working through how to address the non-regression of standards in trade conversion, the officials—with whom we had good and robust discussions—pointed out very strongly not only the need to ensure that the list provided in the final legislation was rooted in statute and justiciable but that it would fit with the WTO regulations, to which it was being addressed at least in part. The wording before us would perhaps not normally be expected in this House, given the argument being made here that good standards already exist and should not be diluted; that better ones should be adopted in some cases, if they exist; and that we should look forward to an increase in the quality provided through this system. It meets the difficulty that words such as “standards” are apparently not admissible in the way we were trying to use them, and, as I have said, the WTO language is somewhat different.
Having said that, the reason for having the amendment on human rights—which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has joined and spoke to earlier—was simply that, if the argument is made that statutory protections require or can benefit from a statement allowing that to be seen very clearly on the front of the Bill, why does that not apply to human rights? With food safety, one can never be more vigilant than we already are. None the less, we should make sure that it is available for future reference that this matter was considered and thought to be so important that it was part of that arrangement. I am sure that the Minister will want to respond to both of those points when she comes to them. As I have said, we will not be pressing this amendment.
I think this is a good day for the issues that people such as the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and McIntosh, have campaigned for. My noble friend Lady Henig has also been very persistent in making sure that we got something about that into the Bill. I am very happy to support that.
My Lords, I would like to add to what the noble Lord has said on human rights. I thank him for bringing forward the amendment specifically to add human rights, but I am satisfied with his decision not to move it. The powers conferred on Ministers under Clause 2 would not, as I understand it, permit Ministers to act in breach of the Human Rights Act—primary legislation—in any event. I would be very grateful if the Minister could confirm that understanding. It would also be inappropriate to include human rights in the main amendment because many pieces of legislation do not expressly refer to human rights. This is because we have primary legislation, which has a particular force. Therefore, including human rights in the amendment to Clause 2 might possibly cast doubt in those other areas.
My Lords, I turn first to Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara and Lord Purvis of Tweed, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I thank them for their contributions to the debate, and for the detailed and—as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, correctly said—robust discussions that we have had on this critically important matter.
Let us be clear that the protection of human rights is important; in fact, it is fundamental. That is why it has been given its own legislative framework through the Human Rights Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, stated. Not only that, but we have been consistent and are clear about our position on human rights as we leave the EU. Simply put, we will continue to uphold human rights and meet our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. The rights set out in the ECHR are already effectively and extensively protected in our domestic law by the Human Rights Act. The effect of Section 6 of the Human Rights Act is that regulations made under Clause 2 must be consistent with ECHR rights. Further, Ministers are required by Section 19 of the Human Rights Act to make a statement about a Bill’s compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights, and this appears on the face of the Bill.
I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that there is no power under the Bill to modify the Human Rights Act, because there is no power to modify any primary legislation which is not retained EU law. That is made clear by Clause 2(5)(a) of the Bill. Regulations under Clause 2 must therefore be consistent with maintaining the UK levels of statutory protection provided by the Human Rights Act, and no amendment is necessary to provide that. This is why the Government consider it neither necessary nor appropriate to include human rights in the list of protections in our amendment to the Bill.
In fact—noble Lords have referred to this—we were worried that including human rights in the list could have unforeseen, unintended and, frankly, unwelcome consequences. It might, for example, suggest that the Clause 2 power could have modified our domestic human rights protections but for such an explicit reference. We are clear that that is not possible. It could also have implied that existing powers in other legislation, where there is no such express restriction, could be used in a way that is not consistent with our domestic human rights protections. Again, we are clear that they cannot. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his agreement on this; I know that his expertise carries enormous weight in these matters.
I turn now to Amendment 4, tabled by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Henig. The Government agree with the spirit of this amendment: we must maintain UK statutory protections for food safety, including the protection granted by retained direct EU legislation. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for confirming in hard data the excellence of our standards. That is testament to the standards that we have in the UK. As I have previously said, and for the reasons I have given, we propose the broad formulation of,
“the protection of human, animal or plant life or health”.
I appreciate that this House will want to have confidence that this category includes food safety, and I am happy to provide that. The whole purpose of food safety regulation is to provide protection for human life and health. I am also happy to commit to publishing guidance that explains that this broad term should be read as encompassing all EU food safety and public health laws that will be retained in UK law, as well as being compatible with our international obligations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked whether proposed subsection (4A) reflects the Government’s commitment to the environment. The UK is committed to upholding its high environmental standards around the world. As with other EU trade agreements, our aim is to replicate the effect of the existing agreements, restricting any changes to technical fixes deemed necessary. The UK continues to be a global leader on climate action, as demonstrated by our ratification of the Paris agreement last November, and as part of the UK’s Climate Change Act agreement of the UK’s fifth carbon budget in July 2016. The 2008 Climate Change Act commits the UK to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 over the 1990 levels. We want to ensure that economic growth, development and environmental protection can go hand in hand. Wherever UK legislation protects the environment, this amendment requires that our Clause 2 regulations are consistent with maintaining that protection.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, also asked about the wording in proposed subsection (4A)—she asked about the protection of protections. I am advised by our lawyers that, in drafting legislation—and I believe this to be true—it is important to be legally precise, even where this means that a clause might sound slightly odd on a plain-English reading. Our amendment effectively sets up a two-stage test. First, do Clause 2 regulations make provision in any of the listed areas? Secondly, if so, is that provision consistent with maintaining UK levels of statutory protection in that area?
I turn to other questions asked by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about the impact of the government amendment in devolved areas. Proposed subsection (4C) makes clear that the protections given through this provision apply to the levels of protection that have effect in the UK or part of the UK which are in place when the regulations are laid. If higher levels of protection are in place in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, these will be the levels that are maintained.
The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked how businesses and economic factors will be taken into account in the exercise of these provisions. This amendment is all about maintaining UK levels of protection in continuity trade agreements. We therefore think that this is outside that, because this is all about continuity.
My Lords, I declare an interest, as recorded in the register. I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. The Government, of course, have constantly been committed: indeed, it has been on the face of relevant legislation. In any disputes about the national parks, scenic beauty and kindred issues take precedence. Will the Minister reassure us that what she is saying takes that point on board?
I am happy to make it clear that whatever exists now will continue to exist. This really is regarding continuity of the trade agreements that we are replicating as we leave the EU.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked some very specific questions that I will try to answer. The first was whether these applied only to the continuity trade deals, and the answer to that is yes. He asked whether it included all the provisions in transitioned trade agreements. The answer to that is yes: it includes all the provisions that we implement in our domestic law using the Clause 2 power. He asked whether the level of statutory protection includes published guidance, and the answer is that it includes all protections provided under primary legislation, subordinate legislation or retained direct EU legislation. Just to be clear, it includes all guidance that has statutory force.
I believe that the final question concerned the Food Standards Agency. It is our intention that it will continue to provide effective public reassurance. Again, the answer to that is correct. We might talk about the Food Standards Agency a little later on a following amendment.
I hope that I have addressed the questions, and I am very grateful for the constructive debate and the support the amendment has been given. Having addressed the two amendments, I ask the noble Lord and the noble Baroness not to press their amendments. I commend the amendment to the House.
Amendment 1 agreed.
2: Clause 2, page 2, line 43, at end insert—
“(4A) If regulations under subsection (1) include provision in any of the areas listed in subsection (4B), the provision must be consistent with maintaining UK levels of statutory protection in that area.(4B) The areas referred to in subsection (4A) are—(a) the protection of human, animal or plant life or health;(b) animal welfare;(c) environmental protection;(d) employment and labour.(4C) “UK levels of statutory protection” means levels of protection provided for by or under any—(a) primary legislation,(b) subordinate legislation, or(c) retained direct EU legislation,which has effect in the United Kingdom, or the part of the United Kingdom in which the regulations have effect, on the date on which a draft of the regulations is laid.”
Amendments 3 and 4 (to Amendment 2) not moved.
Amendment 2 agreed.
5: Clause 2, page 3, line 5, after first “for” insert “civil”
My Lords, this group covers Amendments 5 and 6. I will speak first to government Amendment 5. I will then respond to any additional points that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, makes on his Amendment 6.
We had a valuable discussion in this House on Report on 6 March about what the powers in Clause 2 can and cannot be used for, prompted by the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Beith. That amendment was withdrawn, and I subsequently wrote to and met interested Lords to clarify the matter further and to consider how their concerns could be addressed without casting doubt on the meaning of other powers across our statute book.
Before addressing the detail of the Government’s amendment, it might assist the House if I confirm for the record that the Government entirely agree that it is not appropriate for Explanatory Notes to be used as a means to confine broad ministerial powers. Furthermore, the Government agree that the rule in Pepper v Hart cannot and should not be relied on to clarify unclear drafting. As I think one noble and learned Lord said in our meeting, Pepper v Hart is a judicial solution to legislative failings and should not be used to justify those failings. I am happy to have this opportunity to put on the record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Government do not seek to rely on Pepper v Hart in the context of Clause 2. I was happy to confirm this in the letter that I wrote to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and other noble Lords who took part on Report. I have placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses.
The noble Baroness said that the Government did not intend to rely on Pepper v Hart to deal with any issues that arise from the Trade Bill, which is very welcome indeed. Do the Government intend to use Pepper v Hart in other areas to clarify legislation in a way that they particularly want?
I can confirm that the Government do not intend to use Pepper v Hart in the way that the noble Lord suggested we might. I hope that is clear to noble, and noble and learned, Lords.
I turn now to Amendment 5 and the considerations behind it. The power in Clause 2 cannot be exercised to create or extend criminal offences, impose fees, amend primary legislation—other than retained EU law—or create new public bodies. This is based on long-standing principles about the statutory construction of powers and on well-established legislative presumptions. These make it clear that certain things cannot be done by secondary legislation, unless they are expressly provided for in the enabling Act.
However, on the point about criminal offences, I am grateful for the very constructive discussions with noble Lords. These have led the Government to bring forward an amendment that would improve this Bill in a way that does not cast doubt on other powers in existing enactments. The Government’s amendment is simple but, we believe, effective. It inserts the word “civil” into Clause 2(5)(d) so the text means that this power to implement continuity trade agreements may be used only to make provisions for civil penalties for failing to comply with the regulations. The explicit reference to civil penalties, without mention of criminal offences, makes it clear that the power may not be used to make or extend criminal offences. I trust that these words, alongside the government amendment, will provide reassurance to your Lordships.
My Lords, I first thank the Minister for her positive approach to the issues we raised in debate. In passing, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for helping us to sort ourselves out. The statement in the House today follows the exact terms of a letter that the Minister kindly wrote to me on 11 March. I welcome it. In the circumstances I just want to highlight why we brought this amendment before the House last time. It was to expose two constitutional heresies. The first was that Explanatory Notes may be used for the purposes of construing legislation. We thought that was a heresy. The Government had sent us a letter which told us that this was what they were going to be used for. The second heresy—which was in the same letter—was that Pepper v Hart could be relied on to clarify unclear drafting. The whole point of legislation is that it should be clear. Pepper v Hart is a last resort when this House or the other place has made a mess of the legislation.
I do not think it is necessary, or would be helpful to the House, to repeat what the Minister said. She said that she was referring to the letter. She lifted what she said to the House directly from the letter. With that, I think that for all times in the future—at any rate for the next considerable number of years—we can work on the basis that those two constitutional heresies shall be, and have been, consigned to the dustbin of constitutional oblivion. Can we please forget about it from now on?
I want to make a separate point to the Minister. I am afraid that events moved rather fast and I missed the boat on this. If I had thought about it sooner I would have had an amendment in to Clause 2(5) to exclude the words “among other things”. The fact that I missed the bus does not mean that I may not come on it if it comes into fresh or different legislation. If it is being thought of as a possibility for fresh or new legislation, I urge the Minister to make all her colleagues understand the way the Government approached the Healthcare—I cannot remember which of the many words followed that word—Act that we enacted last night omitted the words “for example”. Those words give far too wide a power to the Minister. I shall come back to “among other things” if the phrase ever returns, so forgive me. However, in view of the assurances from the Minister, the clarity of her observations to the House today and the amendment that would meet the concerns we advanced in relation to statutory construction, so far as I am concerned I do not propose to move my amendment.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister. She has devoted considerable time and effort to meeting those of us who signed the previous amendment and expressed concern about this matter, and she has addressed our concerns in a very positive manner. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, that I—and, I understand, my noble and learned friend Lord Judge—understand the Minister to be making a general statement: this is not a statement confined to the particular provisions of the Bill but a general statement about the Government’s view relating to Pepper v Hart and the use of Explanatory Notes. I very much welcome that statement, which, as the Minister said, is precisely what she said to us in the letter she wrote.
All this exemplifies a concern that your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, expressed. My noble and learned friend Lord Judge, the noble Lord, Lord Beith—who was also party to the amendment on Report—and I have all expressed concern about the tendency of the Government to bring forward in legislation very broad powers and then to rely upon the good will and the good faith of the Minister in their exercise. We have repeatedly urged that Bills should not be so drafted and I think we have the support of the House in making those points regularly and consistently. We will continue to do so, I am sure, and it would be very helpful if other Ministers would understand that concern, as the Minister undoubtedly does, and ensure that legislation is tightly drafted so that proper parliamentary controls can take place.
Perhaps I might say a word, because I was the Chief Whip in the Commons when the Pepper v Hart decision was taken. What the Minister has said is of great advantage to her, because the difficulty I had then was that Ministers were being inhibited from giving proper explanations of Bills, because their advisers were telling them they might be infringing on Pepper v Hart and doing all sorts of things. So the fact that this matter has been cleared up after many years is a great advantage and I congratulate the Minister on doing it.
My Lords, I think the whole House—and indeed the country—should be very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for having raised this important matter, the effect of which goes way beyond this Trade Bill. I am very concerned that the assurances that have been given this afternoon by the Minister apply generally to all legislation and not just to this Bill. Perhaps I misunderstood the way that the Minister expressed herself on that: perhaps when she sums up she can once again make it absolutely clear.
Obviously, if it were the case that Explanatory Notes or ministerial Statements under the Pepper v Hart doctrine could be interpreted by the courts as being the equivalent of legislation, two appalling things would happen. One is that the Government would become extremely lazy in their drafting of legislation, because they could say, “Well, we can get it all right in the ministerial Statement in the House”, or something of that sort. The second, even more serious issue would be that a lot of legislation—the Explanatory Notes concerned or the ministerial Statements—would not be subject to analysis, debate and amendment by the two Houses of Parliament. That would be an absolutely disgraceful and tragic end to this particular tendency. So what has happened this afternoon is extremely important.
It is very important that what the Minister has said to the House this afternoon should be brought to the attention of all members of the Government. Once again, I would be very grateful to her if she would just repeat that these statements—I asked her specifically about the Pepper v Hart issue, but it applies to Explanatory Notes as well—apply generally to all legislation and are not tied in any sense to this particular Bill. This just happens, by accident, to be an occasion when we have two very distinguished noble and learned Lords taking part in the debate who spotted this issue, which if it had not been dealt with could have led to very serious consequences.
My Lords, as I think the only person in the Chamber who participated in Pepper v Hart, it is right to say that the decision of the majority in that case was that statements made by the mover of an amendment or a provision explaining how that provision was supposed to operate could be referred to in a case of ambiguity in order to resolve the true meaning of the phrase. I did not agree with that for reasons which I set out and with which I will not bother your Lordships now. The decision in Pepper v Hart still stands as the legal decision. I venture to hope that it will not be used very often because it is only in a case of ambiguity that it should be used at all. If you look at the detail of Pepper v Hart, you will see that statements relied upon as being explanatory leave a certain amount to be desired.
As far as I am concerned, the train has left the station. Obviously, I come from a business background and there are ambiguities in legislation. I have had experience of Pepper v Hart being quite useful in cases where it has not been clear, in a technical regulation, what is needed. What my noble and learned friend has said suggests that it still sits there so that you can look at what was originally said by, for example, a Minister taking a Bill through, helping the courts to clarify what is being said. I hope that the huge constitutional change that we are presiding over today does not take that away completely because, if so, we are passing something for a wider area than the Trade Bill without having looked at all the ramifications.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships unnecessarily, but in a previous life I spent three years as the Clerk of Legislation at the north end of this building. One of the duties of the Clerk of Legislation is to read through the Explanatory Notes and approve them for every government Bill. A key part of that process is ensuring that there is no advocacy or advertising of the merits of a part of a Bill in the Explanatory Notes. Another factor to be taken into account is when Explanatory Notes tend to give an interpretation or an additional gloss on something that actually ought to be on the face of the Bill. With that background, I thoroughly welcome the exchanges of the past few minutes.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for reflecting his experience in this debate and for the constructive and clear conversations that we have had. I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, and to the House that I was making a general statement. I also confirm to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe that I will listen to the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, who said that the important issue here is for clear legislation not lazy legislation, and that this is used only as a last resort and should not be relied upon.
Perhaps I might ask the Minister to confirm that, contrary to some of the comments that have been made, she is not introducing some major constitutional change today but that the rule in Pepper v Hart remains; it is a rule of law. All that she is confirming, as I understand it—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will say if he disagrees—is that the existence of the Pepper v Hart rule that in the case of ambiguity the courts can look at what was said by the mover of an amendment or a particular provision does not justify ambiguous legislation. It does not justify loose drafting. I think that that is all that the Minister is confirming.
I am happy to confirm that that is exactly what I meant. I do not, I believe, have the power to overturn Pepper v Hart, nor am I minded to do so. However, I want to confirm as a general statement exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has articulated. It has been of huge benefit to the House to address, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, mentioned, two heresies and I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who has supported us in getting to this stage. I also thank my noble friend Lord Wakeham for his words of welcome, and I have taken on board the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane. I am happy to take back, through the officials, the request of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, to reflect to my colleagues continuing concern over phrases such as “among other things”.
The work on this amendment has been an illustration of the very best of the experience of this House. I hope that the detailed reassurances I have provided will allow the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, not to move his Amendment 6.
Amendment 5 agreed.
Amendment 6 not moved.
Clause 11: UK participation in the European medicines regulatory network
7: Clause 11, leave out Clause 11 and insert the following new Clause—
“UK participation in EU and EEA organisations
(1) The Secretary of State must seek to negotiate an international trade agreement with the EU which will enable the United Kingdom to continue, after exit day, to co-operate closely with the bodies listed in subsection (2).(2) The bodies are— (a) the European Medicines Agency;(b) the European Chemicals Agency; (c) the European Aviation Safety Agency;(d) the European Maritime Safety Agency;(e) the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity;(f) the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas.”
My Lords, I thank those who have supported me in bringing forward this amendment. Its history is that we debated it in Committee and again on Report, and have had a number of discussions on the issues it raised. The original concern was that in the other place an amendment was moved to the original Bill to insert the European Medicines Agency as a body with which the Government should seek to make arrangements in the event of a no-deal exit. The feeling was that that was rather too narrow in scope, and did not raise the wider issues about which other bodies might be appropriate for consideration. After discussion, we therefore came up with the proposal represented in Amendment 7. The second version of it on Report included a slightly longer list, but I have been persuaded that we should restrict the amendment to the list currently before your Lordships’ House. I would be grateful if it could be considered. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Government are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, who has worked tirelessly and constructively to find common ground between what he is aiming to achieve with this amendment and a position the Government can support.
As I said on Report on this issue on 13 March, the Government recognise that a deep and special relationship with the EU is likely to involve close co-operation with certain EU agencies and bodies. The Government also recognise that a close partnership with an EU body or agency may help to reduce non-tariff barriers to trade. That is why we will carefully consider how to develop such partnerships within the breadth of our future relationship with the EU.
There are six bodies listed in this amendment: the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and the two European networks of transmission system operators. The Government and the EU have already agreed, as expressed in the political declaration, to explore future co-operation with all of them.
The Government are working to find the best arrangement for the UK regarding other EU agencies and bodies. The decision to seek co-operation with an EU agency or body must be made only after careful consideration, bearing in mind the context of the UK’s overall aims for the future relationship and negotiations with the EU. The future of our relationship with EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, and EUIPO, the European Union Intellectual Property Office, will be shaped by forthcoming UK-EU negotiations.
As we negotiate our future relationship with the EU, the Government are determined to agree ambitious provisions to help businesses protect their intellectual property rights. Indeed, in the political declaration, the UK and the EU commit to establishing,
“a mechanism for cooperation and exchange of information on intellectual property issues of mutual interest”.
In this regard, the UK would seek an appropriate level of co-operation with the EU and relevant agencies, such as the EUIPO.
The UK has a long tradition of close collaboration with EFSA, which we greatly value and hope to continue in the future. We recognise the important work of EFSA in providing scientific advice and guidance, and believe it would be mutually beneficial for the EU and UK to continue to co-operate in the sharing of knowledge and information. A close relationship between EFSA and the UK would support the joint ambitions of the EU and the UK for food and feed safety. However, it would be unwise to stipulate in UK law exactly how we want to co-operate with the EU in these areas, given the implications it could have for the wider balance of rights and obligations we are seeking for the future.
The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, therefore reflects the position set out in the political declaration. His constructive approach to this issue exemplifies the positive tone of many of the debates and meetings we have had with a great number of your Lordships over the last few weeks. The Government are therefore content to support this amendment.
Amendment 7 agreed.
8: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Convention about Ministers of the Crown legislating on devolved matters
(1) Regulations made under section 1(1) by a Minister of the Crown may not normally make provision which would be within the devolved competence of a devolved authority unless—(a) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 7 of Schedule 2), the Scottish Ministers consent, or(b) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 8 of Schedule 2), the Welsh Ministers consent, or(c) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of a Northern Ireland department (within the meaning given in paragraph 9 of Schedule 2), the Northern Ireland department has given consent.(2) Regulations made under section 2(1) by a Minister of the Crown may not normally make provision which would be within the devolved competence of a devolved authority unless— (a) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Scottish Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 7 of Schedule 2), the Scottish Ministers consent, or(b) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers (within the meaning given in paragraph 8 of Schedule 2), the Welsh Ministers consent, or(c) so far as they contain provision which would be within the devolved competence of a Northern Ireland department (within the meaning given in paragraph 9 of Schedule 2), the Northern Ireland department has given consent.”
It is Balmacara. It means “the town from which the Macraes come”—Macrae being my mother’s maiden name. I thought the House might enjoy that little moment of clarity.
Amendment 8 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, comes from a concern that the regulatory power-making in the Bill as originally drafted would cause difficulties for the relationships that should exist between the UK Parliament and the devolved Administrations. There have been two developments since the original amendment went down. First, the continuing debate on a series of matters involving trade issues to be brought back to the devolved Administrations has yet to be resolved in discussions between the UK Ministers and devolved Administration Ministers. Also, the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, which recently went through your Lordships’ House, was subject to an amendment that seemed to suggest that there was a requirement in most of the legislation coming forward, particularly this Bill, to reflect how, and on what basis, Ministers of the UK Parliament could engage with the devolved Administrations over how regulations should be framed and consulted on, and under what conditions consent would be given.
Since this seemed to involve a number of different issues, not just those related to trade, the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, kindly held a meeting at which we were able to discuss this in more detail, attended by myself, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I think we got a long way on that issue in trying to understand how these various matters came together. I think the broad position that affects all these issues is set out in the Scotland Act 2016 and in comparable primary legislation affecting Wales and Northern Ireland.
In respect of the possibility of having a convention that would echo that relating to regulations that will need to be made under the powers given under primary legislation, I think the noble Lord has something to say that will be helpful in resolving whether Amendment 8 is required. I beg to move.
My Lords, I was interested to hear the clarification of the title of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. The House will not be interested, but my title of “Tweed” is because of the river, not because I have a penchant for tweed suits outside this place, which most colleagues from England assume is the case. However, because my title is from the Tweed, because I am from the border and live on the border, and because I was a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Borders, the legislative competence interaction on trade agreements is of significance, not just for Borderers but for the relationship with the devolved Administrations. I am therefore very happy to add my name to this amendment.
In so doing, I also recognise the patience of the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, in meeting us and hearing our case for the need for an extra level of clarification on the interaction of the areas where discussions continue with the devolved Administrations. In some areas, there is disagreement over where the legislative competences of areas that had been EU areas of legislation will lie, when they are repatriated, if we leave the European Union. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the Scotland Act’s approach to devolution is that if those powers are not spelled out in the Act’s reservations, they are recognised as fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This is about how the order-making powers in the Bill interact with those powers. Clarity on the areas of interaction between the devolved competences would be helpful.
Finally, clarity would be helpful in looking at those areas of legislative competence where there are ongoing discussions: agricultural support, organic farming, animal health and traceability, animal welfare, chemical regulations, state aid and food labelling. All are likely to be important not just for continuity agreements but for future trade agreements. Some of these issues are politically sensitive, so getting the required clarity on how they will be legislated for in trade agreements is important. It would be regrettable if the competences ended up in the Supreme Court for dispute; further clarification on current interaction is desirable. I know that the Minister will probably not be able to answer my questions entirely but I look forward to his response to this short debate. I hope he can add an extra level of clarification, which would be satisfactory at this stage.
My Lords, I too welcome the amendment. I apologise for taking so little part in the Bill’s progress since participating at Second Reading. This intermittent pattern has been due largely to being stretched on Brexit matters across many different committees and calls.
I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on the devolution situation. The position in Wales is different from that in Scotland because of the different natures of the devolution Acts—no doubt the Minister is well aware of those. However, similar issues can arise, particularly in the contexts of agriculture, procurement and competition law. Those areas are sensitive and there are strong feelings in the devolved regimes on the powers they can exercise. No doubt many other issues will arise.
I do not think that we can answer this matter by strict legislation. The most important thing by far is the attitude of Governments towards dealing with each other. It is important that, when issues arise and are flagged up at this end, something is done early enough to get a constructive response from Cardiff or Edinburgh. Likewise, it is important that the devolved regimes are encouraged to flag up issues that arise, and that there is a mechanism to deal with them before they become polarised and unnecessarily political. To that extent, I believe that most of the work on this will have to be undertaken on a day by day, month by month basis after the legislation comes into force. Having said that, I support the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, for moving Amendment 8 and for our fruitful discussions since Report, together with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who is not in his place at the moment. I hope to provide some extra clarity on the interaction between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations.
It might help if I summarise my understanding of the amendment’s purpose. It would require the Government to seek the consent of the devolved Administrations when making regulations under Clauses 1 and 2. As we have said, it is the Government’s intention always to consult and seek the consent of the devolved Administrations when exercising the powers in this Bill in areas of devolved competence. We want to form a trade policy that works for the whole of the UK. However, there are good reasons why we do not want to amend the Trade Bill either to extend the operation of the Sewel convention or to replicate the recent amendment to the healthcare Bill, as proposed by the noble Lord.
Let me just touch on the Healthcare Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, suggested during the debate on this issue on Report, on 13 March, that a recent amendment to the Bill strengthened the case for what is being proposed here. However, there is a significant difference, both between the powers in the two Bills and between the texts of the two amendments.
First, the concurrent powers in the Trade Bill allow for devolved Administrations themselves to legislate in areas of devolved competence. As mentioned last week, should the UK Government use the powers of the Trade Bill to legislate for the whole of the UK, it will be for the purposes of legislative efficiency, following consultation with the devolved Administrations. The Healthcare Bill does not provide for this: it does not delegate any powers to devolved Administrations. Introducing consultation requirements in lieu of a power for the devolved Administrations to legislate for themselves is understandable—but this clearly is not the case for the Trade Bill.
Secondly, the amendment to the Healthcare Bill introduced a requirement to consult the devolved Administrations, whereas Amendment 8 would require the UK Government to secure the consent of the relevant devolved Administration before legislating in areas of devolved competence. As is well recognised in your Lordships’ House, to “consult” and to “secure consent” are very different concepts.
I turn to the Scotland and Wales Acts, which already enshrine the Sewel convention in legislation. I am happy to restate this Government’s continued commitment to this convention in relation to all future primary legislation. However, it has been suggested that this amendment would put regulations under the Trade Bill in the same position as Westminster primary legislation under the Scotland and Wales Acts. It must be recognised that those provisions were passed in a very different context and in recognition of an accepted political convention relating to primary legislation. Moreover, as the Supreme Court has recognised, those provisions were carefully worded in a way that demonstrated Parliament’s clear intention that they should not be justiciable.
This amendment, however, goes further by effectively proposing an extension of this convention to apply to secondary legislation. It does so in a way that does not reflect the language of the Scotland and Wales Acts provisions, which would risk making the term “not normally” into a legal test. As I stated on Report, I do not believe that it is the intention of this House to introduce new legal uncertainty to our statute book—especially when that could ultimately obstruct the programme of continuity that this Bill seeks to deliver, to the detriment of the UK as a whole.
I would like to touch now on Section 12 of the EU withdrawal Act and its interplay with the Trade Bill.
Does the Minister accept that the problem as seen from the devolved regimes is that, very often, consultation does not amount to very much indeed? That is why the word “consent” is very much more powerful. If consultation was something that was driven with the intention of having a meeting of minds, rather than just sending a message down and forgetting about it, there might be a better chance of getting that form of words to be applicable.
The word “consultation” is well known and well respected. I would like to pick up on what the noble Lord said earlier about the fact that there is much interaction, and consultation, going on; and it generally works very well. I would also like to say how well it has worked in respect of Wales. It is a term that is well recognised and works well.
Turning back to Section 12, I am aware of the letter from the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary, Mike Russell, which noble Lords have referred to in earlier exchanges and which raises a specific concern in the third paragraph about the effect of Section 12 regulations on the Scottish Government’s ability to exercise powers in the Trade Bill. I am disappointed that, unlike the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government have not seen fit to recommend consent to the Trade Bill. I would like to make it clear that any frameworks-related restrictions on the devolved Administrations’ use of the powers apply only if a Section 12 regulation is first in place.
Due to the collaborative and constructive work that is taking place to establish UK common frameworks once we leave the EU, the UK Government have not yet identified a need to bring forward any Section 12 regulations. The Government have committed to work with the devolved Administrations in the preparation of any Section 12 regulations that would maintain existing frameworks. This was set out in the Inter-governmental Agreement on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the Establishment of Common Frameworks, which ensures that those regulations are subject to scrutiny by the devolved legislatures and the UK Parliament.
In addition, I can reassure your Lordships that, were a Section 12 regulation in place that would restrict the power of the devolved Administrations to use Clauses 1 and 2, the Government’s commitment always to consult would remain. As we have repeatedly said, the UK Government remain committed to the principle of not legislating in devolved areas without seeking the agreement of the respective devolved Administrations. The UK Government have been working productively and collaboratively with the devolved Administrations on a number of fronts, including the development of common frameworks. As a result of this work, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations recently agreed to this joint statement:
“On the basis of the significant joint progress on future frameworks, and the continued collaboration to ensure the statute book is ready for exit day, the UK Government has concluded that it does not need to bring forward any section 12 regulations at this juncture.
On this basis, the Scottish and Welsh Governments continue to commit to not diverging in ways that would cut across future frameworks, where it has been agreed they are necessary or where discussions continue.
UK Government officials are working with devolved administration officials to revise the Common Frameworks analysis and take into account progress on framework areas since March 2018. We anticipate publishing a further iteration of this analysis shortly”.
To conclude, I hope that I have demonstrated that the amendment is unnecessary. The Government are committed to not normally using the powers in the Trade Bill to legislate in areas of devolved competence without the consent of the relevant devolved Administration—and certainly not without first consulting them. I believe that this is proportionate and appropriate to the powers as they currently stand, which have received consent from the National Assembly for Wales, as I said earlier. If passed, this amendment would depart significantly from this. I therefore ask that Amendment 8 be withdrawn.
I am very grateful to the Minister for his words and for being so explicit about the conditions under which powers can be exercised and how they would be affected, both by the current legislative framework and by Amendment 8 if it were inserted into the Bill. Having said that, however, your Lordships’ House has heard from the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Wigley, that these are matters of substantial importance in general terms, and particularly when viewed from the perspective of the devolved Administrations.
I hope that behind the words issued today there is a real and deep commitment across the whole of government to make sure that the lessons from the unfortunate experiences in the withdrawal Bill, now Act, and not repeated in this legislation—but obviously touching on it—will be learned in a way that will mean that we can make progress together. In that context, the Government getting their act together and issuing another statement about these matters as early as possible would be a considerable help to all concerned.
However, the point is well made that there is a well thought-through argument in the Bill, which bears exactly on the issues that the amendment sought to arrange. The commitment given openly by the Minister at the Dispatch Box, confirming that it is the Government’s intention to ensure that full, meaningful consultation should be the mode adopted and that there would always be a requirement to obtain consent where possible from the devolved Administrations, makes it very clear that the amendment is not required. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
My Lords, I request the indulgence of the House to say a few words to express my sincere gratitude. I begin by thanking all those who have participated in our debates on this Bill. As has already been mentioned, this is the first Bill I have steered through your Lordships’ House. It has been a rewarding and constructive—although, I have to confess, at times challenging—experience. Your Lordships have spoken eloquently and with great knowledge about the changes you thought necessary to improve key provisions of this Bill—for example, the need for post-implementation assessment of continuity trade agreements, maintaining UK levels of protection when the power in Clause 2 is used, and clarifying the scope of the Clause 2 power in relation to civil penalties. The Government listened, agreed and responded, and I have no doubt whatever that this Bill is improved as a result. A further important change was the confirmation that the chair of the TRA would be subject to a pre-commencement hearing by the International Trade Committee.
I turn to individual contributions, starting with my noble friends Lord Bates and Lord Younger. They have been towers of strength, their support has been invaluable, and I am hugely in their debt. I also pay particular respect to the noble Lords who have set aside some of their valuable time over the past few weeks to meet me and my colleagues and discuss these important issues, so that together we could ensure that the Bill reflected the genuine intent of this House. I thank in particular the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride and Lord Grantchester; and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. I also thank my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lord Lansley, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the noble Lords, Lord Pannick, Lord Wilson of Dinton and Lord Beith, the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, Lady Henig, Lady Brown of Cambridge and Lady Deech, and the noble Earl, the Earl of Kinnoull, for their constructive approach. In particular, I single out the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his tireless efforts and his contribution to achieving a better Bill. My noble friend Lady McIntosh has already referred to his charm and graciousness; I would add his effectiveness and his integrity.
This has been very much a team effort. Behind the scenes, the extraordinary Bill team have put in an unbelievable amount of effort. My thanks go to them, to my private office, and to all officials who have provided support. They have taken on an exceptional workload and have demonstrated huge expertise and commitment—but I have to give a special award to the Bill manager, Suzanne Greaves. She has been spectacular. Finally, I thank the doorkeepers, the clerks and all the staff, because their patience and professionalism has been unwavering.
To conclude, I have now seen at first hand the value that I have long known that this House adds to the legislative process. There may be aspects of the Bill as it leaves this place with which the Government do not agree, but I really believe that your Lordships can be justly proud, and we should all be proud, of the contribution made here to this important piece of legislation. I am immensely grateful to you all.
My Lords, it usually falls to me to embarrass Ministers, not the other way round. I felt myself blush just then, and I hope it was not caught too closely on television—but I thank the Minister very much indeed for her comments.
Leading on a Bill in your Lordships’ House, whether in a government position or in opposition, is an honour and a privilege—but those who have done it before will know what I mean when I say that it can take over your life. It is not just the bad dreams and the nightmares of waking up and thinking, “Did I actually say that?” or “Did I forget that amendment?”; it is all the other work that goes with it: meetings with third parties who feel that they should participate in the Bill, and in our case—this may not be true of the Government—talking to our colleagues in the Commons, and to other groups in this House that have to be involved. It is well known that it is simply not possible to improve a Bill unless those of all parties, and none, join together to see what the public interest requires.
There are also meetings with the clerks, and Back-Bench liaison on our side, and voting strategy meetings. There is a lot going on, and that does not get any less as we come towards the end of the process. It gets to the point where you eat, sleep and dream the Bill. That is fine when it takes six weeks, but it is not fine if it takes six months, as this Bill has done, to get through to its final process.
There are pluses too. Working on a Bill means working intensively with colleagues. I do not just mean my noble friends Lord Grantchester and Lord McNicol, and our extraordinarily hard-working legislative assistant Ben Wood; it also means working with the Bill team. I agree that all credit is due to Suzanne Greaves and her team, because they have been fantastic to us as well as to Ministers, giving us information and responding, to a very high standard, to often ridiculous requests at very short notice. Ministers, including the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, have been excellent at the Dispatch Box, both in what they have said but also in saying it very quickly. That is, I believe, often the hallmark of a good Minister.
I am sure I speak for the whole House when I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, on what is, extraordinarily, her first Bill. She has it brought it to the House with consummate skill and considerable confidence. She ensured that we met regularly outside the Chamber for the meetings we have referred to, which were robust but extremely good and fruitful. We made progress and we were given all the information we needed.
We did not always agree—the Minister has acknowledged that—but where we differed, we did so only after all avenues for compromise had been explored and we proceeded on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s point of view. In doing that, we upheld the best standards of this House.
My Lords, at this awards ceremony I am delighted to be nominated for best supporting actor. I, too, thank the Members of the Government Front Bench for their patience and their willingness to engage. The Minister said this was the first Bill she has taken through. This is the first time I have been on a Bill’s scrutiny team, although I have had the privilege of taking through a Private Member’s Bill.
The Minister and I now know more about World Trade Organization terminology than we ever wanted to know. We hope it will become useful in the future. The Bill arrived in this House eight months ago. It started its considerations 15 months ago and the Trade Bill 2017 is now the Trade Bill 2017-19. That demonstrates that it has been a long process. The Minister said in her speech at Second Reading on 11 September that this was merely,
“fundamentally a pragmatic and, in most parts, a technical Bill”.—[Official Report, 11/9/18; col. 2204.]
We have had to scrutinise many technicalities and the Minister has been pragmatic in the way she has responded. She also said that the Bill was about continuity and certainty. These two things have been lacking on Brexit over the last months. On this Bill we have been unaccustomed to having such a large attendance in the House as there is now; given the next Statement on Brexit preparedness, I am sure it is in the context of this Bill having to be in place to provide some of that preparedness.
In thanking the Government Front Bench, and having worked closely on a cross-party basis with the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Stevenson, and others, I should also mention that I have had the stalwart support of my noble friends Lady Kramer and Lord Fox, and the unsung heroes of our Benches, Andrew Burrell and Elizabeth Plummer.
This is now a better Bill having gone through this House. We sought to enhance parliamentary power in setting the negotiating objectives and a mandate, and that is now in the Bill. We sought that consultations with the devolved Administrations would be enhanced, and that is now in the Bill. We said that there should be parliamentary approval of these continuity and ongoing agreements, and that is now in the Bill. Participating in a customs union is now in the Bill. A mobility framework for the movement of people is now in the Bill. Non-regression of standards—important across different areas from animal welfare to food standards—is now in the Bill.
The Minister said that this was a rewarding, constructive and challenging experience for her. In many regards she has met that challenge and I commend her for it. She has certainly been constructive in how she has engaged with us. The rewarding aspect will be how she can persuade her colleagues at the other end of this building to ensure that all the wise amendments that this House has passed are not overturned. We will have to see how she does on that business. If she does it, I commend her for it.
Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.