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Trade Bill

Volume 806: debated on Monday 12 October 2020

Order of Commitment

Moved by

That the bill be reported from the Grand Committee in respect of proceedings up to and including Thursday 8 October 2020; and that the order of commitment of 8 September 2020 be discharged and the remainder of the bill be re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

My Lords, the two Motions standing in my name give effect to a decision taken last week to move the Trade Bill into the Chamber tomorrow and on Thursday for the remainder of its Committee stage. As a result, the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill’s Second Reading debate will need to move into Grand Committee tomorrow. This will mean that more time can be spent on the Trade Bill, which has made relatively slow progress in Grand Committee. Those noble Lords who signed up to speak on those Bills were notified over the weekend, and I am grateful to the other members of the usual channels for the constructive nature of the discussions we had on Friday. I beg to move.

I thank the Chief Whip for tabling these Motions, which we undoubtedly support. In fact, we welcome the proper time to discuss the Trade Bill that this allows, prior to Report. However, it raises the question of the seriousness with which our amendments are then considered by the House of Commons. On another Bill, the all-important Agriculture Bill, we see that our so-called Curry amendment has effectively been deemed to need a money resolution. However, it was the Government, not the Speaker, who

“considers it probable that the … cost to public expenditure would be significant (and would go beyond what could be met under existing authorisation … by the Secretary of State).”

That statement by the Government begs two questions. First, what is the limit? Secondly, what is the Government’s estimate of the cost of Amendment 18? The result of this estimation—the figures which we have not seen—effectively denies the House of Commons the chance to consider amendments sent by your Lordships’ House, whether it is the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Grantchester or any amendment that will emerge on the Trade Bill.

Certainly, should key amendments passed by your Lordships’ House be set aside, perhaps a bit peremptorily without proper consideration, the Government should not be surprised if the proponents of those amendments use ping-pong to find a way of ensuring that the issues are properly debated in the other place.

So we welcome this Motion on the Trade Bill but, looking forward, we need to be clear that devices will not be used to set aside amendments, should they be passed by your Lordships’ House.

I say to the Chief Whip that those of us who have been working on the Trade Bill have found the painfully slow pace of progress extremely difficult to deal with, as we have gone on well beyond the number of days in Committee that we expected. So it is really important for the House to grasp how significant this change is because, even if we are going to have two further days in Committee, we really do need to make progress on this Bill, not least for all the institutions that will be set up as a consequence of it.

Before I call the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I remind noble Lords that, if they wish to intervene, they should follow the usual channels and let the clerk know.

My Lords, I think I was in touch with one of the clerks, but I do not know whether I was in touch with the right clerk. It may help my noble friend if I indicate—I know he follows these matters very closely—that I have two amendments specifically on this point. I am proposing a new international trade commission, following on from the work of our government adviser Henry Dimbleby and the fact that a shadow trade commission is already meeting. So it will be extremely important that we have clarification on what budget has been allocated to the existing trade and agriculture commission before we reach the time when Amendments 54 and 55 will be discussed.

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their questions and points. They are important. First, I am grateful for the support for the Motion that is being debated. I do slightly question the relevance of the noble Baroness’s points. However, she was very kind and gave me warning that she would make them, so I feel it would be churlish to go on too much about that and I will reply to her. The point about the reasons that the House of Commons uses, which of course are not uncommon, is that they are entirely a matter for the House of Commons. Not only that, but I shall quote Erskine May on when reasons are given for Lords amendments being disagreed by the Commons:

“When Lords amendments are disagreed to by the Commons, and the amendments are in breach of the Commons’ privileges, the disagreement is made on the ground of privilege alone”—

so they do not go any further than that. This decision is made by the Speaker, and the Speaker’s decisions on the attribution of privilege to Lords amendments are normally accepted without comment by the House of Commons. So, in summary, it is the Speaker who decides on privilege, as he does on money Bills.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh’s points are obviously relevant questions, the answers to which I do not have now—I came prepared to talk about exchanging the Trade Bill for the social security Bill—but I take on board what she has asked and I am sure that the Minister will as well.

The points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, about the Trade Bill were well made. We all know that it has gone slower than we anticipated. At the moment, after four days we are now at the target for day two. However, having had discussions with the usual channels to enable us to swap the Bill into the Chamber, I can say that all sides of the House have committed to finishing the Bill on Thursday. My noble friend, among others, has helped in that by regrouping amendments, and the Opposition have withdrawn some, so I feel confident that, with the good will on all sides that is evident, we will finish on Thursday as we anticipate.

Motion agreed.