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Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

Volume 831: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2023

Commons Amendments

Motion on Amendments 1 to 6

Moved by

1: Clause 5, page 3, line 24, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “appropriate authority”

2: Clause 5, page 3, line 29, at end insert—

“(4A) Subsection (4) does not apply if the regulations are to be made by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly.”

3: Clause 5, page 3, line 31, leave out paragraph (a)

4: Clause 5, page 3, line 32, at end insert—

“(5A) “The appropriate authority”, in relation to regulations under subsection (2)(b), means—

(a) in any case, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly;

(b) in a case in which all of the provision made by the regulations is within Scottish devolved competence, the Scottish Ministers.

(5B) Provision is within Scottish devolved competence if it is provision which would be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament if contained in an Act of that Parliament.”

5: Clause 5, page 3, line 33, leave out subsection (6)

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

“Regulations under section 5

(1) Any power to make regulations under section 5, so far as exercisable by the Secretary of State acting alone or by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly, is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(2) For regulations made under section 5 by the Scottish Ministers acting alone, see section 27 of the 2010 Act (Scottish statutory instruments).

(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations made under section 5 by the Secretary of State acting alone, or by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly, may not be made unless a draft of the instrument containing the regulations has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(4) Regulations made under section 5 by the Scottish Ministers acting alone, or by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly, are subject to the affirmative procedure (see section 29 of the 2010 Act).

(5) Where regulations are made under section 5 by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly—

(a) section 29 of the 2010 Act (affirmative procedure) applies in relation to the regulations as it applies in relation to devolved subordinate legislation (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act) which is subject to the affirmative procedure, but as if references to a Scottish statutory instrument were to a statutory instrument, and

(b) section 32 of the 2010 Act (laying) applies in relation to the laying before the Scottish Parliament of the statutory instrument containing the regulations as it applies in relation to the laying before that Parliament of a Scottish statutory instrument (within the meaning of Part 2 of that Act).

(6) In this section “the 2010 Act” means the Interpretation and Legislative Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 10).”

My Lords, the Government’s intention has always been that this Bill should apply UK-wide. In the process of delivering this ambition, we were able to confirm that legislative consent was not required from Northern Ireland or Wales. However, in the case of Scotland, private property law, as affected by this Bill, is a devolved matter and therefore legislative consent is necessary. As a result of amendments made to the Bill in the other place, we have received legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament.

The Bill has been amended to the effect that it now confers the delegated power in Clause 5(2)(b) additionally on Scottish Ministers both to exercise the power alone within areas of devolved competence and to act jointly with the Secretary of State. By including the option for Scottish Ministers to act alone and also to act jointly with the Secretary of State, the delegated powers can be exercised in a flexible manner that best suits the prevailing need for secondary legislation. Moreover, it avoids any future uncertainty as to whether matters are within the devolved competence of Scottish Ministers, particularly if they cut across devolved and reserved matters. The requirement in Clause 5(4) for the Secretary of State to consult Scottish Ministers before exercising the power in Clause 5(2)(b) will be disapplied in circumstances where the Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers act jointly to make regulations.

As noted earlier, while the Bill is unlikely to need future amendment, we believe that such changes are best delivered through concurrent delegated powers, which will allow both the Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers to make those changes. The amendments will therefore enable Scottish Ministers to make such regulations in a case in which all the provision made by the regulations is within Scottish devolved competence, and to act jointly with, or be consulted by, the Secretary of State in other cases.

The delegated powers previously afforded to the Secretary of State by the Bill are not substantively affected by this amendment. In view of this, Amendment 6 provides for regulations under Clause 5 to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament.

In addition to these two substantive amendments, we have also had to include four consequential amendments to update and correct cross-references within the Bill. I hope noble Lords will acknowledge the requirement for the amendment to Clause 5 to change the delegated power and the consequential amendments that allow this new clause to be inserted into the Bill.

I reiterate the thanks that my noble friend Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay gave at Third Reading to all those involved in the passage of this transformational Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have studied the amendments closely and I can see the beneficial net effect of them. I guess that Amendment 4 is probably the most crucial to the package, and I think the noble Viscount was right to introduce them together in the way he did. I do not have much to say other than that, except to congratulate the Government on having the foresight to bring this legislation forward, and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for the work he did both in the Special Public Bill Committee and on the Floor of the House in considering the legislation.

I have a question for the noble Viscount, which I asked the last time we considered the Bill. This is a very important and significant piece of legislation that will go a long way to making the passage of international trade much easier, considering the impact that it could have. It will make it much easier to trade across international boundaries, and the volume of trade is such that removing the constraint on the use of electronic communication is extremely important. It is estimated that it could save as much as 15% of current transaction costs. That would be a considerable net benefit to the UK economy.

The one thing that worried and troubled me during our consideration was that there did not seem to be an implementation plan. When I quizzed the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, on this, I was less than convinced by his response; I hope he was more convinced than I was. I do not see a plan yet. There is a role for one of the government departments involved in this to take a lead. It is really important that it does so in a way that works well with business, and consults business and all other interests to ensure that we get the maximum from this legislation; otherwise, I suspect it will lie unused.

We are one of only two jurisdictions that have made advances and progress on this. I know that others are looking at our work in the field and, if we can make a success of it, others will undoubtedly follow—but it needs leadership at the top to make this useful piece of legislation workable in future and to enhance our credentials as an international trading country.

My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister for moving these amendments from the Commons. He has shown remarkable consistency with the words of his honourable friend Mr Scully in the Commons—I think word for word it is what he said, so that is excellent. I see other members of the committee here; I am only sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, is not here to see the final process and see this legislation go forward.

I welcome these amendments, because it means that the legislation will cover the whole United Kingdom, and that the exception power in Clause 5 will operate across the UK. Could the Minister say whether anything is in contemplation under Clause 5 to be excepted in using that power across the UK?

I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said about a plan for implementation. This is a much more important Bill than it appears at first sight, and we should really speed it on its way in implementation terms.

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the amendments as set out. In doing so, I declare my technology interests as set out in the register.

This is the most important Bill that no one has ever heard of. It demonstrates what we can do when we combine the potential of these new technologies with the great good fortune of common law that we have in this country. I particularly support the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Bassam and Lord Clement-Jones, about the Government’s plan for implementation. Although it is obviously critical that we get Royal Assent to this Bill as soon as possible, that is really where the work begins. As my noble friend the Minister knows, the Bill is rightly permissive in nature; it cannot be that, having done all the work through both Houses of Parliament, the Bill is then just left on the shelf. There needs to be an active plan for implementation, communicating to all the sectors and all the organisations, institutions and brilliant businesses in this space to seize the opportunity that comes from electronic trade documents. Does my noble friend the Minister agree— and will he fill out some more detail on what that implementation plan is?

I thank all three noble Lords who have commented. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and others have rightly raised the issue of how we implement the provision, and I could not agree more strongly that the prospect of such a brilliant and transformational Bill gathering dust on a shelf is rather depressing; it would be a great waste.

Industry is very keen to implement this itself, but it is on us to track how that is going and ensure that it does. On how exactly industry goes about it, I would like to write to noble Lords to explain that, because I very much recognise the importance of the question.

With respect to any actions envisaged in Clause 5, nothing is currently envisaged.

Motion agreed.