All 5 contributions to the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Mon 7th Nov 2022
Wed 19th Jul 2023
Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Second reading committee
Monday 7th November 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Grand Committee
Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Committee do consider the Bill.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the Committee’s understanding. I have just finished answering a Private Notice Question in the Chamber.

The Bill allows for the use in electronic form of certain trade documents, such as bills of lading and bills of exchange, which currently have to be on paper and physically possessed. It implements the recommendations made by the Law Commission of England and Wales in its report on electronic trade documents, which was published earlier this year. The Bill is not mandatory: it is a permissive and facilitative piece of legislation. Though it is only a small Bill, of seven clauses in length, its impact will be huge. It will help to boost the UK’s international trade, already worth more than £1.4 trillion, by providing benefits to UK businesses over the next 10 years of £1.1 billion.

In short, the Bill will allow businesses to use electronic trade documents when buying and selling internationally, making it easier, cheaper, faster and more secure for them to trade. It is fully supported by the businesses and industries that it is designed to help. The Government’s role here is simply to remove an obstacle to progress and to pave the way for international trade and trade law to be brought up to date.

The Law Commission published its recommendations and draft legislation in March this year. In its report, it made recommendations for legislative reform to allow trade documents in electronic form which can satisfy certain criteria to have the same legal effect and functionality as their paper counterparts. The Law Commission undertook significant consultation on the aim and contents of the Bill throughout the development of its recommendations. It spoke to a wide range of interested parties, including academics, lawyers, trade experts and industry representatives.

No previous attempts have been made to legislate in this area, which is one of the factors that makes this Bill unique and novel. While the Law Commission’s recommendations are for the law of England and Wales, we have worked with the territorial offices and devolved Administrations to ensure that the Bill can be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure that businesses across the UK can benefit from this important development.

Business-to-business documents such as bills of lading, which are contracts between parties involved in shipping goods, and bills of exchange, which are used to help importers and exporters complete transactions, currently have to be paper-based. Existing laws, such as the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992, did not envisage the digitisation of these documents. This Bill seeks to modernise the law, enabling this move to digital trade documents. Under the Bill, digital trade documents will be put on the same legal footing as their paper-based equivalents, giving UK businesses more choice and flexibility in how they trade.

The impact of the Bill cannot be overstated. Whether it is lowering transaction costs associated with trade by reducing resourcing and operational costs and increasing productivity; whether it is increasing efficiency and encouraging business growth by facilitating the development of digital products and services; whether it is delivering environmental benefits through a reduction in paper documents and emissions from couriering the paper documents; or, critically, whether it is increasing the security, transparency, traceability and transactional data of the flows of goods and finance—the Bill has the potential to revolutionise UK businesses’ ability to trade across borders.

To illustrate this, the process of moving goods across borders involves a range of actors, including those involved in transportation, insurance, finance and logistics. One trade finance transaction typically involves 20 different parties using between 10 and 20 paper documents, totalling over 100 pages. Research carried out by industry and academia has produced the following illuminating statistics and figures.

The use of electronic trade documents will reduce trade contract processing times from between seven and 10 days to as little as 20 seconds, according to the industry publication Trade Finance Global. The Digital Container Shipping Association estimates that, if 50% of the container shipping industry adopted electronic bills of lading, the collective global savings would be around £3.6 billion per annum. The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that small and medium businesses could see a 13% increase in international business if trade is digitised, and the World Economic Forum has found that digitising trade documents could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions from logistics by as much as 12%. Electronic trade documents also increase security and compliance by making it easier to trace records.

The Bill will lay the foundations for the future digitisation of our global trade approach and ambitions. I hope it receives strong support from your Lordships and I look forward to noble Lords’ contributions to this debate. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to today’s debate, including my noble friend Lord Lindsay, who spoke in the gap. As the noble Lord, Lord Fox, rightly said, it is quality not quantity that counts. I am glad that noble Lords who took part were unanimous that although the Bill may be small its potential impact is significant.

In my opening remarks I touched on that transformative impact, and I am keen to emphasise the elegant way that the Bill achieves its goal. It is a simple Bill, although I hesitate to use that word because a great deal of consideration and work has gone into making it so. My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond is right to pay tribute by name to some of the people who have been involved in that important work. The Bill achieves what it sets out to do in a minimalistic way. As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, it is also an enabling Bill which leaves people free to sign up to use it if they wish. The opportunity it presents to bring trade law up to date is immense.

English law underpins the laws of global trade, and all eyes will be on us in the UK as we take this legislation forward. As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, the benefits will be there for others to accrue beyond these shores. The objective of the Bill is for the UK to take the lead in setting an international standard for how electronic trade documents can be defined and recognised under domestic law with the intention that other jurisdictions will adopt similar laws. The more that other countries harmonise their domestic laws to recognise electronic trade documents, the less it will matter whether UK law and this Bill in particular apply, and that is the case with paper trade documents today.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for highlighting some of the areas that he intends to probe in the Special Public Bill Committee. He is right that the Bill requires that scrutiny there.

I will deal with some of the questions that were raised. I hope it will be useful. I will, of course, look to see whether it is worth writing on further points ahead of the Special Public Bill Committee, although I would be grateful to noble Lords for recognising that that is the place to go into some of the deeper detail. I am always happy to speak to noble Lords ahead of that committee if it would be useful.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Holmes that there are many opportunities for technological solutions. One of the underlying principles of the Bill is that it is technology neutral. It would run counter to the objectives of the Bill if it were to prescribe or mandate a particular electronic trade document system. That would be likely to stifle innovation and risk excluding participants on the basis that their system does not satisfy the Bill’s requirements. The Bill does not specify what constitutes a reliable system or mandate a particular type of system. Rather it sets out various factors that a court may take into account when determining reliability. The Bill therefore offers some guidance on how to assess the reliability of electronic systems. We have been working closely with industry, which is developing standards to ensure reliability and verifiable authentication of electronic trade documents.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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One issue that is worth investigating further is who is the arbiter of reliability when it comes down to a system. Is it the buyer, the seller, a third party or some accreditation body that says it is reliable?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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If I may, I will accept the noble Lord’s invitation to look at this in Committee because it is worthy of the deeper scrutiny that that affords.

A number of noble Lords understandably referred to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, or UNCITRAL, and its Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, or MLETR, which is the international attempt to provide a legal framework for electronic trade documentation that can be adapted and adopted by individual jurisdictions. In developing its recommendations for reform, the Law Commission was particularly cognisant of this model law. The recommendations have been developed with a keen awareness of it, aligning with it where possible and integrating its spirit and objectives into the particularities of the law of the UK. As such, the provisions of the Bill are broadly compatible with the MLETR, but are drafted to cater for the nuances and specificities of UK law.

For example, the Bill expressly and clearly provides that electronic trade documents are capable of possession, while the MLETR provides that control is a functional equivalent to the fact of possession. It is clearer and more direct to extend the application of the concept of possession itself, rather than to use control as a functional equivalent to the fact of possession. That is something that the noble Lord, Lord Fox, touched on in his remarks about restrictions on control.

Within this Bill, control is a question of fact, as reflected by Clause 2(3)(a), which did not feature in the Law Commission’s draft Bill. The Bill does not define possession; it is a common law concept, which is highly flexible. Again, noble Lords will want to discuss this area in Committee, but the Law Commission’s advice, based on extensive research and consultation, is that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to set out in legislation what constitutes possession of an electronic trade document because possession is a fact-specific concept that has always been notoriously difficult to define in abstract terms. Furthermore, it would be impractical to frame legislation to cover the full range of possible solutions that could arise in relation to possessing electronic trade documents, particularly given the potential for technology to develop and give rise to different forms of control and therefore possession. I look forward to discussing this in greater detail in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, asked about the territorial extent of the Bill, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland. The Bill is intended to apply UK-wide, as the issues concerning the legal blocker to possessing electronic documents are broadly the same. Apart from the provision in Clause 3(4), which extends only to Scotland and relates to the interaction between the Bill and the Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill, the Bill extends UK-wide. It is reserved in relation to Northern Ireland on the basis that the Bill deals with the reserved matter of trade with any place outside the United Kingdom. We have agreed with officials in the Northern Ireland Executive that the legislative consent Motion process is not therefore engaged.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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Is this Bill compatible with the Northern Ireland protocol? Is it compatible with the unique position that Northern Ireland has within the United Kingdom in having an open border with the EU?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We do not expect the Bill to have any impact on the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol. It is a measure to digitise business-to-business trade documents. It will allow businesses to use electronic trade documents when buying and selling internationally, and the benefits will be realised irrespective of whether trade is internal to the UK market or is global.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, also asked some further questions about other jurisdictions. DCMS and the Department for International Trade agreed the digital economy agreement with Singapore, which includes a memorandum of understanding that put in place a pilot project to explore and text the interoperability of electronic trade documents.

The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, asked about digital ID and e-signatures. I certainly agree that digital signatures and digital ID are areas that would benefit from harmonisation. As noble Lords stated, this Bill is merely the first foundational step towards digitisation and interoperability. The Bill is very specific in removing the legal blocker to possession of electronic trade documents; that really is its core purpose. We want to remove an obstacle for UK businesses that trade internationally. In giving electronic trade documents legal effect, we can unlock their current and future potential.

I will of course consult the Official Report of the debate to see whether there are any further points on which it might be useful to follow up before Committee. I look forward to the further scrutiny that this modest but important Bill will receive then. I am very grateful to noble Lords for their remarks and the questions that they have raised today.

Motion agreed.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading
Wednesday 30th November 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, a Second Reading Committee considered the Bill in the Moses Room on 7 November.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Special Public Bill Committee.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage
Monday 19th June 2023

(10 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 19 June 2023 - (19 Jun 2023)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I have a few preliminary points. Please switch off electronic devices or turn them to silent. Hansard Reporters would be very grateful if Members emailed them their speaking notes.

Clause 1

Definition of “paper trade document”

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (Paul Scully)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Angela. Clause 1 defines the type of trade documents that may fall within the scope of the Bill. It does so by setting out the criteria that the documents must satisfy. The list of documents included is intentionally broad to ensure that when the trade market uses a document in such a way that possession of it is significant—even if that is a matter of commercial practice, rather than law—it can be confident that it is regarded as being possible to possess it.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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I am keen to welcome the provisions giving legal recognition to electronic trade documents. It is clear from all the evidence and research behind the Bill that digitalisation of the documents listed in the clause will help to speed up transactions and lead to significant cost savings and efficiencies. The Government claim that they are ahead of other G7 countries in introducing these changes, but I wonder whether this does not all still smack a bit of yesterday’s technology solving today’s problems tomorrow, rather than tomorrow’s technology solving those problems today. With the rise of artificial intelligence, I wonder how soon some of the processes that we are talking about will be conducted with very little human interaction.

The clause provides the foundation for the rest of the Bill by setting out the definition of “paper trade document” and all that follows from that. The Scottish Government had some concerns about the Bill, but I will come on to those a little later.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Definition of “electronic trade document”

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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The clause defines the criteria that a trade document in electronic form will need to meet to fall within the scope of the Bill, and therefore to be legally equivalent to a paper document.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Possession, indorsement and effect of electronic trade documents

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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This clause provides that a person may possess, and part with possession of, an electronic trade document. It removes the legal blocker that prevents trade documents in electronic form from being possessed, and therefore from having the same legal status as paper trade documents. The clause is fundamental to ensuring that there is equivalence between the two, which is needed if we are to meet our policy aims.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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I rise briefly to endorse what the Minister says about the Bill. It is incredibly important, particularly post Brexit, when red tape has significant consequences for our ability to trade with the rest of the world. We welcome the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Change of form

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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The clause provides the change of medium or form of a trade document—that is, it allows for the conversion of a paper trade document to an electronic one, or vice versa.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Exceptions

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 5, page 3, line 24, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “appropriate authority”.

This amendment provides for regulations under clause 5(2)(b) to be made by the appropriate authority. The appropriate authority is defined by Amendment 4.

None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 2 to 5.

Government new clause 1—Regulations under section 5.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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Clause 5 contains an opt-out provision that allows industry participants to design their documents so that they are not caught by the Bill and are not possessable if they prefer to do business using other contractual arrangements or legal mechanisms. An express opt-out provision is not required and it will be enough if it can reasonably be inferred that it is not the intention that possession should apply. We have drafted the provision carefully to be limited to documents used in trade to which possession is relevant, allowing an opt-out where it is clear from the document or practices around its use that possession is irrelevant.

The Bill includes a delegated power in clause 5(2)(b) that will enable the Secretary of State to specify further types of documents or instruments that are outside the scope of its substantive provisions, in addition to uncertificated securities already cited in clause 5(2)(a). There is a further delegated power in clause 5(3) that enables the Secretary of State to amend or remove the exception in clause 5(2)(a). In acknowledgement of the Bill’s potential to spur further digitalisation of documents and related practises, the power may need to be exercised in circumstances where it is determined that a type of document or instrument that falls within the scope of the Bill requires more bespoke provisions to allow for its digitalisation, or where a type of document or instrument should not be capable of being used in electronic form.

On the amendments, the Government’s intention has always been that the Bill should apply UK-wide, and we have already agreed with our colleagues in Northern Ireland that the Bill does not require their consent, given that it deals with a reserved matter. The Welsh devolution settlement restricts Senedd Cymru from making changes to private property law, and we have agreed that legislative consent is not necessary in this case.

In the case of Scotland, private property law is a devolved matter and we have requested a legislative consent motion from the Scottish Parliament. We have worked with officials, and I know that Scottish Government Ministers have been advised to support that. I hope that we will continue to work to ensure that that happens. We want to consider the matter further and to have belt and braces, so we also consider it prudent to confer the power in clause 5(2)(b) 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 jointly, the delegated powers can be exercised in a flexible manner that best suits the prevailing need for secondary legislation. Moreover, it prevents 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 when the Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers act jointly to make regulations. As noted earlier, although the need for amendments to the Bill in the future is unlikely, we believe that such changes are best delivered through concurrent delegated powers that will allow both the Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers to make those changes. The proposed amendments will therefore enable Scottish Ministers to make such regulations when all the provision 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 the amendment, so we have tabled new clause 1 to provide for regulations under clause 5 to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament. In addition to those two substantive amendments, we have had to include four consequential amendments to update and correct cross-references. I hope that colleagues will acknowledge the requirement for amendment 1 to change the appropriate authority, and the consequential amendments that allow that amendment to be inserted into the Bill.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
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I have just a brief question for the Minister. In the Second Reading Committee, I pressed him on where the responsibility for the Bill would sit. I would appreciate it if he would put on the record exactly which Secretary of State will have responsibility for and oversight of the Bill.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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I echo the point made by the Labour Front Bencher. This is a Law Commission Bill being taken forward by a Minister from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on matters largely overseen and regulated by the Department for Business and Trade. A little clarity about exactly which Secretary of State is referred to in these clauses would be helpful.

The Scottish Government welcome the Bill in principle, but the initial legislative consent memorandum set out a number of concerns about the powers granted to UK Ministers to legislate in devolved areas, particularly without the requirement for consent from Scottish Ministers or Scotland’s Parliament. The amendments tabled by the Minister go some way towards addressing that, so the supplementary legislative consent memorandum published by the Scottish Government on 13 June sets out:

“While the amendments proposed by the UK Government do not provide a full statutory consent provision, on balance, the Scottish Government recommends that the Parliament grants legislative consent”.

That is because

“The policy objective of the Bill is strongly supported by both the Scottish Government and stakeholders…there is no current legislative opportunity at Holyrood to make equivalent provision for Scotland, and any such legislation would not be as comprehensive as the UK Bill…the power involved is extremely limited, and unique to this law reform Bill…the aim is to ensure consistency in a mutually agreeable and workable way and that in practice it is highly unlikely for Scottish Ministers to want different arrangements for trade documents to apply in Scotland.”

It is welcome that the Minister has been able to table amendments that will allow Holyrood to agree to the Bill, but I wonder slightly whether this could not have been foreseen. Scottish Government Ministers and, indeed, those of us who represent the SNP in this House, have for several years expressed our concern at increasing overreach by UK Ministers into devolved areas, especially in the context of Brexit. There was quite a lengthy consultation before the Bill was published, so quite why none of this appears to have occurred to Ministers before we got to the Public Bill Committee right at the end of a Bill that started in the House of Lords is slightly beyond me. However, consensus does, for once, appear to have been reached. These amendments will make the Bill much more palatable, so that should ease its remaining stages both here and in Holyrood.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad that we were able to get there by the end. The Government have undertaken significant legal works, including by engaging independent legal counsel to analyse and ensure the compatibility of the Bill’s provisions with both English and Scots law, including that related to the Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament. I am glad that we got there in the end, ensuring that we talk and agree as best we can. I can confirm that the Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade will be exercising this power.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

If I perceived correctly, the Minister has already amendments 2 to 5—am I correct?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think I have, yes. I got a bit excited there.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

It is normally helpful if the amendments are moved at the appropriate time. Otherwise, we will get ourselves in a bit of a mess. I recognise the Minister’s enthusiasm, but perhaps we could keep to the selection of amendments; everyone will then be able appropriately to follow what is going on. Given what the Minister said, unless anyone objects, I intend to deem those amendments moved in the previous debate.

Amendments made: 2, in 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.”

This amendment provides for the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the Scottish Ministers before making regulations not to apply where the regulations are to be made jointly by the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers.

Amendment 3, in clause 5, page 3, line 31, leave out paragraph (a).

This amendment removes provision that is replaced by the new clause inserted by NC1.

Amendment 4, in 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.”

This amendment provides for the power to make regulations under clause 5(2)(b) to be exercisable by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers acting jointly or (where the regulations only make provision in devolved competence) by the Scottish Ministers acting alone.

Amendment 5, in clause 5, page 3, line 33, leave out subsection (6).—(Paul Scully.)

This amendment removes provision that is replaced by the new clause inserted by NC1.

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Consequential provision

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 7 stand part.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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Clause 6 provides for consequential changes to the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992. Clause 7 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill, the commencement date and the short title.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 1

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).”—(Paul Scully.)

This new clause provides for regulations under clause 5 to be statutory instruments and to be subject to affirmative resolution procedure at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [Lords]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
3rd reading
Monday 10th July 2023

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 19 June 2023 - (19 Jun 2023)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Paul Scully Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology (Paul Scully)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all the Members of this House and in the other place who have spoken in support of this transformational Bill, as well as those who contributed to scrutinising the Bill so deeply and effectively during its passage. The Bill has followed the special parliamentary procedure for Law Commission Bills. That procedure demonstrates that good and much-needed legislation that has already been thoroughly consulted on by the Law Commission can be introduced, debated and amended if required in an efficient and democratic way, but with reduced burdens on an already busy Parliament. Apart from the minor changes made to extend this critical legislation satisfactorily to the whole of the UK, the Bill that is before the House remains the work of the Law Commission. I also thank the officers and Members of the Scottish Parliament for their work in enabling that to happen so smoothly.

The Bill is a fine piece of work. It is informed by experts from academia, the legal profession and, crucially, the industries that stand to benefit most from its introduction and will be the driving force behind its implementation. As English law is the foundation of international trade, the Bill will put the United Kingdom ahead of not only the G7 countries, but almost the whole world. The UK is setting the approach that other jurisdictions will seek to follow, not just on the digitalisation of trade documents but on the future digitalisation of all trade, towards which the Bill is an important first step.

I record my thanks to Professor Sarah Green and her colleagues at the Law Commission, including Laura Burgoyne, Daniella Lupini and Siobhan McKeering, for their diligent work. I also thank Oliver Tones, the Bill manager, and Bobby Lawson, his deputy, along with the committed Government lawyers who have contributed to this, specifically Simon Brandon, Louise Dennison and Chris Callan. Thanks are also due to my private secretary, Jack Collins, who has ably assisted me and the Bill team throughout.

The Bill has global transformational potential. It will place the UK at the forefront of international trade as a thought leader for others to follow, and will save businesses an estimated £1.1 billion over the next 10 years—really tangible benefits, as well as being inspirational thought leaders for global trade. As such, I commend it to the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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I rise fully in support of the Bill, and congratulate the Government and the Minister on the extraordinary work they have done on it. I also congratulate all Members from the House of Lords and the Opposition, and all the individuals and officials, who have done so much to make a Bill that might on its face look very unattractive and unexciting something that I believe to be extremely exciting.

I have made no secret of the fact that, before I got into this place, my background was in trade. I understand well the value of bills of lading and the complexities that come with them, but I also stand here as the representative of one of the largest exporting fishing ports in the United Kingdom, Brixham. There, the concept of documentation and the points that we make about it are absolutely essential to those fishermen’s success, and indeed their profitability.

I will be extremely brief, because time marches on this evening. The Bill will streamline trade—it will allow us to do all the things that we very much need to do in an era outside of the European Union, where signing new trade deals offers us new markets, new opportunities and new horizons. When I speak to my fishermen, one of the biggest and most significant causes of concern is the Electronic Trade Documents Bill and putting forward export health certificates and export documentation, as well as import documentation. The Bill will allow us to streamline those processes to make sure that those goods reach their markets. Whether it is fishing, farming, food, goods or shipping, we must ensure that we take full advantage of opportunities to help small businesses across this country that are exporting, as well as those that are importing.

We must look at how the Bill will relate to the European Union and its implementation of similar policies, and must also consider how the Bill will work with Commonwealth countries. We have made no secret of the fact that we want to work more with the Commonwealth, or that through things like the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-pacific partnership, we want to be able to do more in terms of trade. This Bill sets the benchmark—we should be unashamed of talking about the value that it can bring to our economy. The Minister and the Opposition have done very well in producing the Bill and working it through to the stage it has reached, but my final congratulations go to the Minister.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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My hon. Friend has spoken eloquently about fishing, and has previously raised the subject of fishing with me. Health certificates are not currently within the scope of the Bill, because they do not relate to possession, but fishermen will definitely benefit from the Bill just as other sectors will.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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As ever, the Minister is incredibly gracious. I appreciate his intervention and thank him for that point, because it will send a message of confidence to my markets, and indeed to fishermen across the country.

I do not need to detain the House any longer, other than to say that the Bill is extremely welcome and we must talk it up. Coupled with the Procurement Bill that we passed just a few weeks ago, we are making real progress in the area of trade. We have to be able to get out there and talk about it.

Electronic Trade Documents Bill [HL]

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Consideration of Commons amendments
Wednesday 19th July 2023

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 19 June 2023 - (19 Jun 2023)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved by
Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose
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That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 1 to 6.

1: Clause 5, page 3, line 24, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “appropriate authority”
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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).”
Viscount Camrose Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (Viscount Camrose) (Con)
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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.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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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.

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Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
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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?

Viscount Camrose Portrait Viscount Camrose (Con)
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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.