Debates between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 23rd Feb 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments
Tue 2nd Feb 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 18th Jan 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 6th Jan 2021
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 15th Dec 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 7th Dec 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Tue 13th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)
Thu 8th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 29th Sep 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 8th Sep 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 28th Jul 2020
Tue 14th Jul 2020

Agricultural Exports from Australia: Tariffs

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Tuesday 8th June 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, as ever my noble friend encapsulates precisely the advantages of free trade agreements and I thank him for that.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this trade agreement contains an ISDS mechanism, which provides private corporations with the right to bypass the laws and courts of both parties. During the passage of the Trade Bill, the Minister confirmed government support for reforms to the ISDS through the UN Commission on International Trade Law’s proposals for a multilateral investment court. Can he update us on progress?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, the precise details of the UK-Australia free trade agreement are a matter for ongoing negotiations. In respect of ISDS, the UK Government consider the inclusion of ISDS provisions in FTAs on a case-by-case basis and in light of the unique UK-Australia investment relationship. We are huge investors in each other’s markets and appropriate ISDS will benefit investors on both sides.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comments and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for moving his Motion 1D on a cross-party basis. I put on record, as he did, how enjoyable it was to work with him, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and Commons colleagues of all persuasions to see whether we could progress this important issue. Although I have some sympathy with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, I agree with the Minister and others who have spoken that the speeches we have heard draw discussions on the parliamentary scrutiny of international trade deals to a close, for the moment. This issue will not go away, although I believe that the Grimstone rule—if that is what we are to call it—will help us to work through a process to consider trade agreements in the future. That is for the good.

I will make three small points. First, it is difficult to make constitutional change. Anybody who has operated in either House of Parliament knows that to be the case. It should be hard—and it is right that it is—but it is sometimes frustrating if the pace of change does not match some of the aspirations and recognise some of the wrongs committed. As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said, although we have not managed to set in statute that which a significant majority in this House, across all parties, would have liked, we have agreed a way of working with the Government for the future—the Grimstone rule—that strikes a workable balance between the rights and responsibilities of the Executive and those of Parliament. Time will tell. We are in the right place and no doubt will benefit from the experience to be gained in the next few years, but we should record that progress has been made.

Secondly, one key turning point to have emerged from the discussions is the need to ensure that we have a process, in any future agreement that we might make, which properly engages the devolved Administrations and civil society—and on a sensible timescale. I will come back to that. This Parliament will now need, in the way that it works, to address four major points in any future statutory system, although they will be covered by the Grimstone rule: approval of the initial objectives, review of the progress of negotiations, considerations of the final proposed agreement including changes to existing statutory provisions, and parliamentary approval of the deal and any subsequent changes to legislation that may be required. We have analysed that to the nth degree in our discussions during the last four years; now we have a model for how it can work. If there is good will on both sides, as I think there is, we should let that run for a while before returning to it.

My third point, on which I will end, is that in these debates over the last four years we have made it clear that UK trade policy and the trade deals that will be the basis of our future activity and prosperity are important. They deserve the sort of focus and interest envisaged under the protocols described as the Grimstone rule. We can be confident that, with the work of the Select Committees in the Commons and the International Agreements Committee in the Lords complementing the interests of a range of other bodies, including devolved Administrations and civil society, that debate will continue to be an important aspect of our public policy.

Finally, although we have gone as far as we can on this today, we will keep a close eye on it and look forward to resolving outstanding issues in the not- too-distant future. We have worked closely with the Government and with successive Ministers. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, and the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, for their engagement since 2017. We have built a coalition of interest across parties in this and in the other House, which has been rewarding, positive and a model for how issues of this nature can be resolved in the public interest.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I first unreservedly apologise if noble Lords thought that I was, in any way, disparaging the role of this House and the valuable work that it has done on scrutiny, by referring to the votes in the other place. Nothing could have been further from my thoughts, and I hope that noble Lords will accept that.

This has been a good debate and reflects the calibre of discussions that we have repeatedly had on the important issue of scrutiny. The Government have listened to the concerns expressed on this issue and we have moved significantly to set out enhanced transparency and scrutiny arrangements for free trade agreements. This has come almost entirely because of the quality of the debates and the points that have been put by Members of our House.

What have we done? It includes committing to allow time for the relevant Select Committees to report on a concluded FTA before the start of the CRaG process; strengthening the commitments, as I said earlier, which were set out before this debate in a Written Ministerial Statement; and placing the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing and ensuring that it is required to transparently provide independent advice to the Government on whether new FTAs maintain statutory protections in key areas, such as animal welfare and the environment. In addition, the Government have moved on other linked areas such as standards, which we will come to later.

While this is the last time, I hope, that we debate this issue in this Bill, scrutiny is an issue that we will return to when we debate the implementing legislation for future FTAs. The EU model of trade agreement scrutiny evolved over our 50-year membership. I assure noble Lords that we have no intention of taking that long but now, in only month two after the transition period, I urge your Lordships’ House to see the current arrangements as an evolution of our trade treaty scrutiny practices—no doubt an evolution that has further to go. As we find our feet as an independent trading nation, working with parliamentarians in both Houses, I am sure that we will continue to build upon our scrutiny processes, in ensuring that they remain fit for purpose.

As a concluding comment, I would be covered in embarrassment to think that my small contribution to this debate has led to a rule being named after me.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 164-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons reasons and amendments - (29 Jan 2021)
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, first, we are sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, is not able to be present for the debate, but we know that he is following his Government’s rules by self-isolating.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for introducing the amendment, which, as he very kindly said, is the result of discussions and debates among Members of the House from all sides, but most closely with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, who has just spoken, and me, in order to try to reach out to the Government with a corporate approach which is not party political but tries to reflect what this House has a responsibility for, which is to ensure that we have good governance.

We have moved considerably if we consider our starting position, which was set out in the Bill that left your Lordships’ House in March 2019, as has already been said. It had a detailed and lengthy description of the sorts of processes which could underpin the approval of international trade agreements. It was done largely in a vacuum because the Government decided not to play. They had published a Command Paper but they were not interested in detailed discussions at that stage. It was very much a product of a “What if?” mentality in the sense of putting to the other place a proposal which we confidently expected to come back and on which we hoped there would then be discussions, which have indeed transpired, albeit at a year’s distance from that time.

I want to put on record that we recognise that the Government, particularly under the Minister, have moved, but I point out that it has been mainly on the practicalities of scrutiny, not on the principles, and this amendment before your Lordships’ House today is about the principles that should underpin the approval of trade deals on behalf of the United Kingdom. The changes that have been made constitute primarily a huge increase in the information provided to the committee set up to look at trade deals, and the engagement there seems to be going well. We took the view that since that was a work in progress it probably needs more time to bed down. It certainly needs more time in discussion with Ministers and the Government about exactly what information is going to be provided and how it is going to be disseminated and discussed. It was probably not appropriate to seek primary legislation at this stage, but we do not rule out the idea that it is something that should be codified properly as we go forward.

Again for the record, it is important to say that we have agreed, perhaps reluctantly, to accept the Government’s red lines in relation to any constitutional changes that might be envisaged in relation to trade deals. We are not challenging the Government’s power to initiate and carry on their trade negotiations under the royal prerogative. Many would argue that that is outdated and should be changed and that Parliament should have a role in that, but we have not chosen to engage with that at this stage. We are not challenging the relationship between international trade agreements and the CRaG Act 2010. Again, the point has been made very well already that it does not seem fit for purpose, but in the meantime it is the mechanism we have. The changes proposed in our amendment are appropriate for where we want to go. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, just talked about that and I agree with what he said. As I have said already, we will leave the committees to work through the procedures and processes to cover all the elements of a trade deal because there are many different styles of trade deal, many of which have not yet surfaced in terms of scrutiny, and we need to learn lessons from that. Time will tell, but in the interests of making progress we have framed an amendment within the Government’s red lines.

We are not the elected Chamber but, as I have said already, we have a responsibility to look at the constitutional proprieties. I am very confident that this proposal before your Lordships’ House, while I recognise that it is a major shift from where we started in 2019 and earlier on in the progress of this Bill, is an appropriate way of carrying on the dialogue with the other place in the hope of persuading them that there are issues here.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, did an excellent job of summarising the amendment in lieu, but I want to put on record again that this is not just something that has been dreamed up by a few of us in the confines of your Lordships’ House. Everybody in your Lordships’ House knows that there is an outside group of people—many organisations, individuals and companies—who would like to see a change in the way in which the scrutiny of trade deals is carried out. They want open and transparent procedures and they want scrutiny to apply to all our trade policy—not just the rollover deals, but for the future as well. They include, as has already been mentioned, the former Secretary of State Liam Fox, and indeed—not that much reference has been made to it—there was a very powerful speech in Committee in your Lordships’ House by the former Trade Minister the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead. They both urged the Government to seek a way forward by engaging with the proposals before your Lordships’ House today.

I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for their comments. They were very supportive, and I think they take exactly the tone that we want. This is a reasonable, measured and appropriate proposal which builds on the work that has been done in committees and gives Parliament its appropriate place. Parliament needs to have its say. What on earth are the Government afraid of? In closing, I just want to say that we do not regard this conversation as being closed. Should your Lordships’ House agree with this proposal today, we will be very happy to engage in further discussions with the Government, because we are not far apart on this.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I would like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate. I have listened carefully to my noble friend Lord Lansley displaying his normal forensic skills and to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and his references to Dr Liam Fox. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, who I think courteously acknowledged the progress we have made in scrutiny, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. At least I made the noble Baroness laugh out loud, even if she does not think much of our negotiating skills. I have to say I think that was rather unfair to the officials who have been conducting the negotiations. Last, but certainly not least, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, displayed his normal wisdom.

As I mentioned, the Government have significantly strengthened the scrutiny and transparency arrangements in place. I fully acknowledge the pressure from noble Lords which led us to do that. I am sure that, over time as we consider more free trade agreements, there will be a continued strengthening of scrutiny and transparency. I am very pleased that the Government have undertaken to publish objectives and scoping assessments at the outset of negotiations for new free trade agreements with Japan, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and in due course—if the admissions process triggered by my right honourable friend the Trade Secretary is successful—the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Additionally, the Government will continue to keep Parliament and the public informed of progress on these negotiations through the publication of “round reports” as we call them, alongside regular briefings for parliamentarians so that they are kept informed and can ask questions of Ministers. I confirm that the Government will continue to work with the International Trade Committee and the International Agreements Committee to ensure that they have treaty text and other related documents or reports, on a confidential basis, a reasonable time prior to them being laid or deposited in Parliament under the CRaG procedure.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, despite the problems in relation to attendance and ability to speak that we have heard about, this has been a very good debate, full of passion and erudition. We do not have nearly enough Charlie Chaplin in our House, and so I was glad that my noble friend Lord Adonis was able to bring him in, even at this late stage.

Both opening speeches on the two amendments, from my noble friend Lord Collins and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, respectively, were moving, persuasive and, of their type, almost unanswerable. As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, pointed out, the Government are in a hole here. The blizzard of meetings, calls and letters across three departments, and the tone of the arguments deployed by Ministers, are all indicative of a panicked response, stemming perhaps from a failure to anticipate the problem and compounded by a worry, as my noble friend Lord Collins saw it, about no longer being able to have their cake—trade—and eat it, with no worries about the ethical elements. If a concession is to be brought forward which is “Let’s set up a committee”, one wonders what they thought the original question was—it will not wash.

It is clear that these amendments need to be considered as complementary, as my noble friend Lord Collins and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, agreed. Together, they pose the question of when and in what way we bring in an ethical dimension to our trade policy. The Minister said at the start of the discussion that trade does not have to come at the expense of human rights, but it does—unless, as the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, warned us, good people follow Burke with action, not just nice words. As the noble Lord, Lord Polak, said, words are completely inadequate when you are facing a case of genocide.

We, the Official Opposition, will support both amendments when they are called. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, respects parliamentary authority now and it has been changed in a way which makes it more effective and more appropriate for its purpose. It sets in place a process to remedy the current defects in the way the international order deals with the egregious crime of genocide. The amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Collins rightly places a responsibility on Ministers to make a determination about crimes against humanity and to keep Parliament fully informed about breaches of compliance in relation to the UK’s human rights and international obligations. This seems to be a logical, balanced and appropriate approach to the issues that are before us and we will support the amendments.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con) [V]
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My Lords, this has, quite rightly, come to be the most passionately debated issue. We have heard a number of remarkable interventions from across the House. Anybody listening to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, could not have failed to be moved by what he said, and I pay particular tribute to him, as I have done on previous occasions.

The Government have listened carefully before today, and we will listen very carefully to the points that have been put forward in this debate. First, I make it crystal clear to noble Lords that the UK does not have a free trade agreement with China and is not currently negotiating one. If it were to do so, any concluded agreement would be laid before Parliament, as is usual under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, which empowers Parliament to undertake treaty scrutiny prior to ratification. This mechanism is available to Parliament now, as it has been since 2010, and it rightly does not turn on determinations being made in the courts.

I say without any minimisation that it is always open to parliamentarians to raise the issues of the day with the Government and to spotlight developments of serious concern, both domestically and internationally, on human rights, trade and myriad other issues. Parliamentary committees have existing powers to hold inquiries and publish reports and the Government welcome and encourage the searching and serious efforts of parliamentary colleagues from both Houses in this regard. However, there are critical, practical concerns with this amendment which I outlined earlier. I shall not repeat the arguments I gave in my opening, but they are real and serious. I must ask noble Lords to put aside the quite understandable emotional reaction that they have to this issue and to consider these arguments and the points that my noble friend Lord Wolfson and I put in our letter today. Of course, I apologise to noble Lords that the letter was not issued earlier.

There are serious wider issues affecting the issues in this amendment, as has been recognised by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and others. This Government are committed to working with Parliament on this most heinous crime of genocide and to explore, and to continue to explore, options with Parliament in this regard as it relates to trade, but we must proceed without amending the delicate balance in the constitution or the role of the courts, no matter how terrible these issues are, or we will run the risk of undermining the very aims of those seeking justice.

However, yet again, I want to make it completely clear that the Government understand the strength of feeling on this matter. It is completely common ground between the Government and the noble Lords who have spoken that there must be enhanced scrutiny for Parliament on both the issue of genocide and the Government’s response to this most serious of crimes. I accept that point completely on behalf of the Government.

Accordingly, the Government are looking at how we can ensure that the relevant debate and scrutiny can take place in Parliament in response to credible concerns about genocide in defined circumstances. We want to work with Parliament to find a parliamentary solution and ensure that the Government’s approach to credible claims of genocide is both robust and properly accountable to Parliament. This is not a subject that can be swept under the carpet. It must be dealt with transparently and openly.

The Government’s proposal is that if a Select Committee takes such evidence it considers appropriate, publishes a report stating that there exist credible reports of genocide and subsequently seeks a debate on the report or is dissatisfied with the Government’s response, HMG will of course facilitate a debate on the report in Parliament. Such a debate would bring extreme focus to the issue in question. It would greatly increase political pressure on the situation in question and provide further scrutiny of government policy. I am convinced that that is the best way forward.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is right to have raised in this brief debate the recent events which, as reported in the press, certainly seem to cast a completely new light on how arrangements are to operate within Northern Ireland, and in relation to goods travelling between GB and Northern Ireland. He also referred to the recent issue—a diplomatic issue, perhaps—to do with the vaccine and the relationship that had with the Northern Ireland protocol. I think, having been said, these points are made, and if the Minister wishes to respond to them that would be interesting, but I think they do not really bear on the future debate.

I will use this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Hain and his all-party group, which supported amendments both here and in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill—now Act—which were very useful in bringing to the attention of both Houses of Parliament, and to the wider world, the way in which some of the regulations and the statutory provisions being discussed and debated in your Lordships’ House would bear on the real lives of people who live in Northern Ireland, and the impact it would have on how they operate, how they live, and the wider context of the legislative framework within which they operate, including the Good Friday agreement.

I think the amendments have served their purpose in making sure that we are aware of these issues and keeping them in front of Parliament, as I have said. I think there is no more need for them, which is why we are not contesting the decision of the Commons on this matter.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con) [V]
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My Lords, first, I completely associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, about the critical importance of maintaining the security of staff at the border in Northern Ireland, and his comments about vaccination. As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, often does, he has managed to catch me out on a point of detail about his EORI numbers, but I will commit to look into the point he made and write to him about that as soon as possible.

In conclusion, the Government are fully committed to ensuring that there are no barriers or discrimination within the UK internal market, as this amendment seeks to prevent. We will continue to abide by the principle that the noble Lord, Lord Hain, has espoused across these many debates.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 18th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 160-I Marshalled List for Third Reading - (13 Jan 2021)
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, as we come to the end of the legislative process for the Bill in this House, I will say a few words to express my sincere gratitude to those who have made its progress possible, starting with my noble friend Lord Younger, whose support throughout this process has been invaluable, especially to a rookie Minister such as myself. I am hugely in his debt. He has shown me the ropes, he has been a deep well of knowledge on parliamentary process and he has stepped up time and again during the debates.

I also thank my predecessor in this role, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, who laid the groundwork in so many ways and whose prior work undoubtedly made the passage of this Bill so much smoother. Any credit for this Bill should surely start with her. I pay particular respect to the noble Lords who have taken their time to meet with me, virtually, to listen to me and to advocate for their issues, and particularly thank the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester, 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, Lady Noakes and Lord Lansley.

I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Kidron, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Berkeley, for their expertise and relentless advocacy of important issues that often get subsumed in the wider debate. There is one notable addition to the names I have just mentioned. My predecessor, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, singled out the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his contributions in the 2017-19 Bill, and I do the same. Without his forthright counsel, his expertise and his patience, the Bill would not be where it is today.

But this has been very much a team performance. Behind the scenes, civil servants have put in an unbelievable job of work. My thanks go to them, to my private office—in particular, my private secretary Donald Selmani—and to those in the Department for International Trade and across Government who have helped get the Bill to this point. With permission, I will specifically mention the Bill team, whose support has been invaluable not only to myself but to many Members of our House, beginning with the previous Bill manager, Gail Davis, who has expertly guided this Bill and who will now enjoy a well-earned retirement after a distinguished career in the Civil Service. I also pay tribute to the other members of the Bill team, past and present. James Copeland, the current Bill manager, has been on this legislation since day one. I suspect that he is almost as hopeful as noble Lords of getting it on the statute book. I should also mention members of his team: Alistair Ford, Oscar Burbidge, Ross Holton and Thomas Bingham. Finally, I thank the parliamentary staff, the doorkeepers and the clerks, for their patience and professionalism, and I know that I speak for the whole House when I thank all those who have helped make the hybrid process a success during the time of this dreadful pandemic.

This has been my first experience of taking a major and substantive Bill through the House and I do believe that the legislation, after the hard work that Peers have put into it, will be a credit to all Members of this House and the other place and will have a significant positive impact on the citizens and businesses of this great country.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very graceful and elegant introduction of this brief part of the Bill. Votes of thanks are very difficult to do, whether in the Chamber, as they were here, remotely or as part of a more social gathering. It is very difficult to get them right, but I think everyone would agree that this was very nicely done.

The Minister is a relative newcomer to our work, although he has got into the groove very quickly and been able to manage it very successfully. Of course, he has a secret: he started his career in the Civil Service. Therefore, it is to be expected that members of the Bill team have welcomed him back, as it were, and have supported him in a way that has allowed him to do his job with a great level of skill.

I often think that Bills passing through your Lordships’ House acquire a character of their own. This Bill might be described in a number of ways. “Groundhog Day” would be most people’s choice, but that would involve a daily repetition whereas this Bill has been with us only twice. I say “only”, but each time it has repeated much of the stuff that we have dealt with before. The first time it went through with the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, and it was very different because of changed circumstances.

However, that comparison perhaps does not work quite so well, so I suggest that we are talking about a version of “Hamlet”. Parts of this Trade Bill are perhaps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: they, too, are involved in events often happening just outside their understanding and make all-too-infrequent appearances before escorting Hamlet to England and an untimely offstage death—such a waste of such wonderful characters. I will leave others to speculate who played the other parts. I certainly have in mind characters who might be accused of playing Polonius and others who might have played the Player King.

Of course, having the Bill twice, as we have had, may bring other benefits. One suspects that there are probably several PhDs and books to be written about how different approaches were taken over the two cycles of the Bill, the changes in Ministers, the impact of the changes in the political environment and even the change from real to virtual debate, which was mentioned by the Minister, which will have had an impact. I think it might be interesting see them in a few years’ time.

However, we need to focus on where we go next with the Bill. The Government have achieved their target of getting it through all its stages in your Lordships’ House, but it is not finished. In 2019, the then Minister kindly acknowledged that she felt the Bill had been “improved” by its passage through your Lordships’ House. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, also implied that, although he did not quite say so in the same words, but I thank him for his thanks to us and the others who have contributed to the Bill.

I am sure that I speak for all those involved in the Bill, indeed, for the whole House, when I say that this is, amazingly, the first Bill that the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, has done, and he has done so with extraordinary skill. The idea that only a few months ago he made his maiden speech at Second Reading of the Bill means that we have to look in a new light at his ability to catch up and work forward. He has been very good at organising meetings and providing the information we wanted. Indeed, at one point I had to remonstrate with him about his propensity to email me and colleagues at all hours of the day and night and at weekends. Enough is enough, I think—although he did not seem to take the message.

The noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, whom the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, mentioned in his speech, supported him very well and showed his usual charm and courtesy at the Dispatch Box. The Bill team, which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, was exemplary. We have had a very good service from them and I thank them very much for that. He also mentioned the debt of gratitude we owe to the broadcasting hub and to the staff of the House for making it possible to deliver the Bill at all. My struggles today have been a good example of that. I have been able to communicate at very short notice in a way that I did not think was possible when the internet went down a couple of hours ago.

Outside the House, we have been assisted by the Greener UK alliance and the Trade Justice Movement, in particular. Over the period that we have been involved in the Bill, it has been interesting to see how external groups and civic society have become more interested in trade policy. This is a good thing, given that it is crucial to us as a nation going forward. That is something we want to build on and have endure.

I have been supported in this phase of the Bill by my noble friends Lord Grantchester, Lord Bassam of Brighton and Lord Lennie, our Whip, who have coped very well with me in my “Hamlet” mode. Dan Harris, our legislative assistant, has also been absolutely brilliant and has supported the whole enterprise, even sacrificing his birthday celebrations on one occasion to make sure that papers were made ready and got out. His negotiations with the Public Bill Office have been a joy because I have not had to do them.

We have made a number of changes to the Bill which we hope will be considered sympathetically by the other place tomorrow. I say again to the Minister that we are not far apart on many of these issues, and it would be good to meet him in the interim to see whether there is further common ground to be hammered out.

Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Monday 11th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, as always, the noble Lord is correct in these matters. We have a close relationship with New Zealand on trading matters; we tend to think alike. We certainly hope to advance these matters during our negotiations.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that if the UK were to accede to the ACCTS, it would go a long way to demonstrating to a doubting world our commitment to honouring the level playing field clauses contained in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I endorse the noble Lord’s point. Obviously, the decision on whether to join these negotiations has some technical aspects. We very much accept the principles underlying this agreement but some of the fine print still needs to be considered and examined.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 6th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all speakers for their contributions to this rather important debate. I was happy to sign up to Amendment 23, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, because surely ensuring online safety for children and otherwise vulnerable people is one of the key issues of our time. Secondly, while the age-appropriate design amendments your Lordships’ House made to the Data Protection Act 2018 have made a start in ensuring that the UK is a safe place for children to be online, much still hangs on the progress of the as yet unpublished online harms Bill. Sadly, there is still rather a long way to go before that become law. If, and when, the online harms Bill, assuming it retains its present ambitions, becomes law, it may provide a bulwark against any tendency the Government may have in future to trade away current or future protections for our children and other vulnerable users. But we are not there yet.

The points made by my noble friends Lord Knight and Lord McNally about the way in which the US tech giant lobby has been forcing changes on recent trade deals are, frankly, chilling. This is not the time to weaken current protections for children online. We must ensure that future trade deals protect our current, and prospective, domestic legislation, and we can do that by taking this issue off the negotiating table.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 23, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Sheikh, would preclude the Government from signing an international trade agreement that is not compliant with existing domestic and international obligations relating to the protection of children on the internet, including under the Data Protection Act.

I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, for meeting me and discussing this in more depth. Nobody can doubt the passion and resolve she brings to this issue, and I can assure her that the Government share her concerns, and those of other noble Lords who have spoken so powerfully in the debate. I personally fully share those concerns.

That is why I am pleased to confirm that our trade agreements are already fully compliant with existing domestic and international policies protecting children on the internet. We are already committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. We carefully consider any interaction between trade policy and impacts on user protection in trade agreements.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has raised a very interesting question. We need to think a bit harder about it than we did when we first looked at this in Committee.

The issue is not so much with the powers split between the Commons and Lords in relation to financial matters, which I think was the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. It is more to do with—as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was trying to get us on to—the reality of the grounds on which we have to consider more widely and the relationship between a pure measure, such as tariffs, and the way in which it might be used in any trade dispute, or any day-to-day consideration of our trading relationships. Out of that comes a consideration about whether this is an executive issue or there are also parliamentary concerns.

Taking it from the other end, the fact that the powers enshrined in the original legislation are for a negative instrument suggests that the Government have taken the view that this needs the very lowest level of parliamentary scrutiny. As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, pointed out very well, this cannot be right. These areas often deal with very important and quite meaty issues to do with industrial policy, employment and the whole economy. There seems to be a distortion being built up between the particular issue in hand, the remedies available and the role of Parliament in considering it.

Surely it would be wrong if we ended up in a situation where the only parliamentary process was consideration of a negative statutory instrument when, in truth, the effects it was trying to ameliorate were causing concern on quite a large scale in the country. I do not have a solution to this. I do not think this Bill is going to provide us with an outlet. I wonder whether the Minister might consider taking this away. Perhaps a more considered review is needed in a couple of years’ time, when we have had experience of how it works in practice.

Without wishing to put words in his mouth or ask him to commit to something he cannot commit to, can he give an assurance that this is something the Government will keep a close eye on? Should issues arise during the next year or so, an appropriate way forward would be to take this as an issue and see whether, as a result of the scale of the penalties, the style of the approach being taken through Parliament and the impact this is having on the economy more widely, it might be best dealt with through a review process.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I turn to Amendment 41 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley, which seeks to ensure that regulations made under Section 15 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 will be made under the affirmative parliamentary procedure. I remind noble Lords that that section allows the Secretary of State to vary the rate of import duty—that is, increase or decrease tariffs—in the context of an international trade dispute.

First, I begin by thanking my noble friend for his commitment to this issue, alongside the correspondence and meetings that we have had on the matter. I hope my noble friend found them at least partly as useful as I did.

Noble Lords may recall that I explained in Committee why I believe that it is imperative that HMG are able to enforce, swiftly and confidently, the UK’s rights under international trade agreements. I explained to the House that the conduct of state-to-state trade disputes is a matter of foreign diplomacy and is covered by the royal prerogative. I also reminded the House that international litigation, including launching and defending international trade disputes, can be extremely sensitive, with far-reaching geopolitical implications. I shall not attempt to justify sensitivity in itself, of course, as a reason for avoiding scrutiny. However, when that sensitivity may give rise to matters that are extremely prejudicial to the UK’s position, it must be absolutely right to take it into account.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a good debate on an important issue. We have heard some very expert contributions from all sides of the House set out the scene clearly. In responding to the debate, I will also speak to Amendment 19 in my name, which I am pleased has some support from the noble Lords who spoke before me.

The issue that distinguishes my amendment from those in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Kramer and Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, is—if I can use an inelegant term—the fact that I was trying to provide in the amendment a little wiggle room for the Government on ISDS. I mean that in the sense of offering the Minister and the Secretary of State, when a proposal for an ISDS mechanism comes forward within a trade agreement, the chance to argue the case in Parliament and get support for it, should that be necessary in his or her judgment in relation to the particular case concerned. However, today’s debate has polarised the views of those who are concerned about ISDS. Probably the right thing to do is to signal at this stage that I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and we would be prepared to follow her into the Lobbies if she wished to test the opinion of the House.

The reasons for that are easily summed up; we can look to the cases drawn up by my noble friend Lord Hendy, the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. For a moment, I thought that he was going to turn into a serial rebel with his victory earlier on in our debates this afternoon; I also thought that he might wish also to move against his own Government on this issue, but he was able to draw a line and point out both the transgressions that were being perpetrated within the Government and the opportunity for a rethink, in his terms, in the light of the schemes before us.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, concluded, we probably need to draw a line in the sand and explain why we do not believe that ISDS is the model that the Government should be thinking about going forward. It may well be that the multilateral tribune approach is not yet right. There may also be a better case to be made for the use of our own courts; after all, we have an experienced and expert judiciary and a lot of court experience in these matters. If we are doing trade deals with countries that also have mature legal systems, it is hard to see why an ISDS scheme needs to be there unless, as my noble friend Lord Hendy said, this is part of some overall scheme of preferential treatment for those who have investment to spare but find the risks too great and need the assurances of an ISDS system to back up their support.

We live in different times. I do not know whether the old arguments will work, but I do know that what we see before us with ISDS is not right. It is no longer fit for purpose— it must change. We should start that progress by supporting the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade (Lord Grimstone of Boscobel) (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendment 15, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and Amendment 19, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. These proposed new clauses concern the approach taken to investment protection and the settlement of investment disputes where these provisions are included in free trade agreements. I will try to restrict my comments to points germane to these amendments.

The UK has included these provisions in more than 90 bilateral investment treaties, which have been crucial for our overseas investors. The UK is one of the most open countries for investments. That is because one of the great attractions for foreign investment is the fair and independent legal system underpinning domestic and foreign investment. We look to use investment provisions in trade agreements to guarantee equivalent levels of legal certainty for our businesses expanding overseas. These businesses make sizeable investments and incur significant risks. It is therefore vital that they can operate in a free and fair environment with a means of independent redress where treaty commitments have been breached.

In response to points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—not that I expect I will cause noble Lords to change their minds, sadly—many major British companies tell me that the existence of ISDS in certain overseas countries is absolutely germane to their decision to invest in that country. I recognise that noble Lords are concerned that these interests are correctly balanced in our free trade agreements with the Government’s right to regulate in the public interest. That is an objective I share. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for answering the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on Canada in such depth and with such erudition—in words I could not hope to better.

Amendment 15 would permit the UK to sign a trade agreement only if it commits all parties to pursue the establishment of a multilateral investment tribunal system and an appellate mechanism for the settlement of investment disputes. It would also require all such disputes against the UK to be heard by UK domestic courts until such a system is in place. Your Lordships will no doubt be aware that not all trade agreements include investment protection and dispute settlement. It would not be appropriate to require all trade agreements to include a commitment to pursue a multilateral investment tribunal system or for disputes to be heard in UK domestic courts. In the absence of such a system, including this requirement would only hinder the progress of UK trade policy.

The UK is fully engaged in negotiations at the UN Commission on International Trade Law on the options to reform investor-state dispute settlement and the possibility of establishing a multilateral investment court —MIC. I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that the process of triangulation continues, and we have not yet come to a conclusion on the most appropriate way forward. Binding the hands of both the UK and our treaty partners before negotiations are concluded may not be in either their or the UK’s best interests, especially, as my noble friend Lord Lansley noted, some of our major trading partners are against the concept of the MIC. My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about ISDS and China. I confirm, perhaps surprisingly, that we have had a bilateral investment treaty with China since 1986. However, perhaps to the relief of noble Lords, there has never been a case brought against the UK under that treaty—nor do I expect there to be.

As for the requirement for UK courts to hear investment disputes, depending on the circumstances foreign investors in the UK will already have a means to legal redress against the Government without resorting to ISDS. It is likely that if we impose a requirement for disputes to be handled only by national courts, this will need to be agreed on a reciprocal basis with treaty partners. This would then require disputes brought by UK investors against a host state to be heard in their national courts, undermining the access to independent ad hoc arbitration for UK investors which has successfully supported UK investors worldwide for the past 40 years. I have no doubt that our major investing companies would oppose this.

ISDS in its current form is valuable for UK businesses investing overseas. This in turn benefits UK citizens as their shareholders. Conversely, the UK has never been a respondent in an investment dispute before a tribunal that has gone against it. The UK’s existing stock of bilateral investment treaties all contain ad hoc arbitration as the form of dispute settlement. Arbitration is a widely used means of resolving disputes between parties, including under international and domestic law.

Amendment 19 would similarly require the UK to pursue the establishment of a multilateral investment tribunal system and appellate mechanism. It would also result in the UK being unable to implement trade agreements containing ISDS unless the subject matter of a claim is something under which UK domestic law offers redress to UK persons. It would require the Government to approve a mandate for a free trade agreement containing ISDS provisions through regulations of both Houses of Parliament.

I will start with the redress available to investors under domestic law. The amendment overlooks the fact that, depending on circumstances, foreign investors in the UK already have the means to seek legal redress against the UK Government through domestic law, without resorting to ISDS. I humbly suggest that is one reason cases have never been brought against the UK under ISDS. As I mentioned, UK courts are regarded internationally as reliable and independent. It is worth reiterating that this is one reason the UK has never been a respondent in an ISDS case.

The amendment requires that the Government approve the inclusion of ISDS provisions through both Houses of Parliament. The Government have already committed to publishing their negotiating objectives, along with an initial impact assessment and a response to any public consultations, before entering negotiations. I humbly suggest that noble Lords know well that, as required under the CRaG procedure, the Government will lay the final treaty text alongside an explanatory memorandum before both Houses for 21 sitting days. This House has the power to prevent ratification should the ISDS provisions in the proposed treaty not be to the satisfaction of noble Lords. The House of Commons can do so indefinitely.

On the point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh about dispute resolution in any EU agreement, I am afraid that, like me, noble Lords will have to wait and see. I hope this reassures noble Lords and, on that basis, I ask for the amendment to be withdrawn.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, we have now concluded 27 agreements with 59 countries. There is a very small number of countries that we will not have completed agreements with before the end of this year, but I am pleased to say that the agreement in principle with Vietnam was concluded last week, during the Trade Secretary’s visit, and full details will be made available to the House in the normal way in due course.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, when he answered the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, a few minutes ago, the Minister was equivocal about whether the UK was considering joining RCEP. Could he give a clear yes-or-no answer as to whether, if China were a member by that stage—and it has applied to join—we would apply?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I am happy to give a clear answer to the noble Lord: at the present time, we have no intention of concluding a free trade agreement with China or of applying to join RCEP.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, on the substance of this amendment, I have very little to add to the excellent speeches that we have already heard from my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, with additional support from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. As my noble friend Lord Berkeley said, we have watched his progress from Bill to Bill, from department to department and from Minister to Minister almost with affection as he wends his way around, receiving much the same answer from everybody: they all agree that this is a terrifically important thing to do, but, of course, supporting it is not their job or that of their Bill or department. I do not think that he should divide the House on this issue because it is not something that we can progress by amendment or Division but, at the very least, when the Minister comes to respond, he should commit to come back to my noble friend with a clear plan of what he needs do to get this protocol agreed. Clearly there is willingness and there are lawyers and opportunities; we just need a plan.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendments 1, 4 and 5, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I acknowledge without reservation how much this topic means to him; no one could have worked more assiduously than he has on it.

The amendments before us would expand the scope of the Clause 2 power, creating a power to make regulations implementing private international law conventions as well as agreements that facilitate trade or trade financing. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his engagement on this matter with DIT, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Justice in relation to the private international law Bill.

In Committee, the noble Lord outlined that this amendment would allow the UK to implement the provisions of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol; for those who were not present, this protocol relates to the financing of railway rolling stock. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that the Government recognise the competitive advantages of ratifying the Luxembourg Rail Protocol. We have identified the benefits that this could bring to both the UK rail sector and UK financial services. Thus the Government support the ratification of this protocol; the challenge has always been finding an appropriate parliamentary time and a suitable vehicle to implement it, given the very significant pressures on parliamentary time—as your Lordships will be all too aware.

Turning to the appropriateness of this amendment, as we argued in Committee, we believe that the scope of the Trade Bill

“should not expand beyond essential readiness”—[Official Report, 29/9/20; col. GC 40.]

for trading as an independent country outside the European Union. I am afraid that the Trade Bill is not a suitable vehicle to provide powers for the implementation of this agreement. As previously explained, the powers granted by this Bill are limited but vital for the delivery of the UK’s independent trade policy.

In Committee, we argued that technical matters relating to finance and transport should be considered outside the Trade Bill in a way that is suitable to matters related explicitly to finance and transport. I was pleased to see Peers support amendments to the private international law Bill that will help to support the implementation of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol, but it is obviously disappointing that this is not a final solution. I assure your Lordships that the Department for Transport will continue to explore all available options and vehicles to implement the protocol fully.

As I have made clear, the Government fully support the implementation of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol. However, I repeat: we do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate place to achieve this. We will therefore oppose this amendment on this occasion, but I would be happy to work with colleagues across government and facilitate further conversations between the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the Department for Transport to discuss our policy in this sector at greater length and see whether a plan can be put together.

Again, to be clear, we do not believe that this is the appropriate legislation for this amendment and we will not bring forward an amendment to the Trade Bill on this topic at Third Reading. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Intellectual Property Rights: Affordable Drugs

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Monday 30th November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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As I said in answer to a previous question, there are flexibilities in the existing TRIPS Agreement. As I said, I encourage countries to take advantage of these flexibilities, because what could be more important than ensuring that supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine reach their citizens?

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, further to my noble friend Lord Reid’s question, we welcome the Government’s policy of affordable and accessible medicines for all, but how does that policy square with the parallel export ban of over 80 medicines earlier this year to help ensure that there is an uninterrupted supply of medicines for NHS hospitals treating coronavirus patients, which would effectively prevent UK companies sending even paracetamol to Covid-19 sufferers in other countries?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, nobody is a greater supporter of free trade than my department and me, but short-term considerations occasionally arise, particularly relating to public health emergencies, when those important general principles have to be put aside for very short periods of time to ensure that the NHS has access to the drugs it needs. I am sure most noble Lords would welcome this.

Continuity Trade Agreements: Parliamentary Scrutiny

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in the Commons, the Minister stated that parliamentary scrutiny was central to the ongoing continuity FTA rollovers. That was good to hear. He also said that nearly half these treaties will be agreed under the provisional agreement mechanism, which excludes parliamentary debate before the FTA is implemented. That is not so good. We have the opportunity to put things right when the Trade Bill returns to your Lordships’ House in early December. Will the noble Lord the Minister agree to continue our discussions to see if we can formalise a protocol for scrutiny, building on his good work in ensuring that the International Agreements Sub-Committee of this House has the papers and information it needs to carry out its valuable work?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade (Lord Grimstone of Boscobel) (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the constructive exchanges which the noble Lord and I have had on this matter. We have a mutual interest in ensuring that Parliament is able to carry out its scrutiny processes effectively. I look forward to continuing our debate on this important topic during Report on the Trade Bill.

Canada-UK Trade Deal

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Tuesday 17th November 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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It would not be appropriate for me to go into the detail of ongoing negotiations. But I assure noble Lords that talks are at an advanced stage and I am confident that they will be concluded satisfactorily.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Government promised that 40 rollover agreements would be in place by the end of the transition period. Only 20 have been considered so far under the CRaG procedure. We have fewer than 21 sitting days before 31 December, so it is not physically possible to ratify the remaining trade agreements under normal procedures. What advice can the Minister offer the country’s importers and exporters about what they should be doing if their trade engages with, for example, Canada, Singapore, Mexico or Vietnam?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, first, I must correct the noble Lord: 23 agreements have now been signed. This is a moving target. I encourage British businesses to watch this space. I assure the House that all agreements will be put through the CRaG process. Some may need to be provisionally applied, but they will all be ratified by our standard agreements in due course.

Trade and Agriculture Commission and Trade Remedies Authority

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Thursday 15th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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Decisions on financial privilege are taken by the Speaker, following clear parliamentary procedure. The Government do not have any input into this process.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, after the Trade Bill receives Royal Assent, the Secretary of State will have the power to appoint the TRA chair and its non-executive directors and approve the appointment of the TRA chief executive officer, all without independent scrutiny or parliamentary approval. How do those authoritarian powers protect the TRA’s operational independence and ability to make impartial assessments, as required by the Bill?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, we will be debating these matters during the Trade Bill Committee this afternoon, when I will cover the topic in more depth. However, I can assure the noble Lord that, in appointing people to the TRA board, we will strictly adhere to the code on public appointments and make sure that people who are appointed are all completely fit for purpose.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his amendment and his excellent speech, which said everything that needs to be said around this very difficult area, with considerable skill and a huge amount of information that we will need time to absorb.

The House seems united in the view that this is a serious issue that has a lot of support and needs to be implemented. I will be interested to hear how the Minister responds to it. What is most attractive about the amendment is the innovative use of the courts as a way of trying to give a point of factual accuracy around which decisions can be taken. I have not seen this before; it is not something that we have ever had proposed and it is worthy of further consideration. Indeed, it may have wider applications.

That puts the House in a bit of a spot. If it is clear that there is a way of checking, in a way that is respected in the use of our courts, to assess whether or not an action needs to be taken, are we not put on notice to live up to our responsibilities as signatories to this convention to prevent, protect and punish? Indeed, if we care about our moral values as a nation, we should have no grounds not to support the amendment.

Having said that, I wonder whether it is worth picking up one or two points that suggest that a bit more work on the amendment might make it achieve even more. Others have picked up on the question of why it is applied only to rollover agreements when it has the capacity to deal with all free trade agreements. Although this is a terrible thing to say, why stop at the issue of genocide? Are there not other egregious issues that would need to be considered in the same class as genocide? As my noble and learned kinsman Lord Hope said, the torture convention may well be an opportunity for further thinking around this area.

While I support what has been said today about the proposal and I want to give whatever assistance we can to the movers of the amendment, I suggest that maybe there should be other discussions before we reach Report, because what is said in the amendment goes with the grain of so many other amendments that we have looked at around the question of human rights that it would be good to see if we could find something that brought them all together. We need something that is helpful to the broader causes that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, espouses but is capable of bringing in other issues that other Members of the House also care about.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, I turn to Amendments 68 and 76A in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, which seek to ensure that any regulations made under Clauses 1 or 2 are revoked in the event that the High Court makes a preliminary determination that they should be revoked because the partner country has committed genocide. I was very thankful for the opportunity to discuss the amendments with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Blencathra yesterday.

I unequivocally reiterate the Government’s commitment to upholding human rights and opposing genocide in all its forms. It is the British Government’s policy that any judgment on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for judicial decision, rather than for government or non-judicial bodies. Our approach is to seek an end to all such violations of international law and to prevent their further escalation, irrespective of whether these violations fit the definition of specific international crimes. Any determination as to whether war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide have occurred is a matter for competent courts after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible judicial process.

As your Lordships are aware, the Bill enables the Government to ensure continuity in relation to specific agreements we were party to through our membership of the EU. These agreements met international obligations in respect of human rights and we have maintained, and will continue to maintain, those obligations in the agreements we sign. Should we have any concern about the behaviour of any partner country in relation to human rights abuses, we would take it up with them through the appropriate channels. In continuity agreements —the subject of our deliberations today—there are often suspensive clauses that allow us to suspend agreements in the event of human rights breaches.

We have heard again today, as we did during the debate on Amendment 33, the passion of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. The examples he gave of the Uighur Muslims in China are truly chilling. I understand and share his concerns; the Government condemn any human rights abuses, including the egregious situation in China. As the Foreign Secretary told the Foreign Affairs Committee in the other place on 6 October, this is not something that we can turn away from. The UK Government are playing a leading role in co-ordinating international efforts to hold China to account for these violations and we will continue to do so. We will of course continue to raise these concerns with Chinese officials.

I do not disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said about the amendment he and other noble Lords have tabled being within the Bill’s scope. However, and I say this with regret and almost in a sense that I am using bureaucracy to counter the most passionate arguments that we have heard today, Clauses 1 and 2 can be used only to implement the GPA and non-tariff obligations from those continuity agreements we signed as a member of the EU before exit day. China is not a party to the GPA. Additionally, China does not have a free trade agreement with the EU, so Clause 2 cannot be used to implement any future free trade agreement with it.

I am of course very happy to discuss these matters further with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the other sponsors of the amendment. I reassure noble Lords that the Government take issues relating to genocide extremely seriously. I hope, for the reasons that I have offered, that the noble Lord will have confidence to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 8th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I was delighted to hear from the Minister that a new trade agreement has entered the books. Could he confirm that the same arrangements that apply to the Japan agreement will apply to that agreement in respect of the ability of the International Trade Committee and the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee to have view of the documentation and to make a response to Parliament, should they wish to do so?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord for that question. The arrangements that we have put in place in discussion with the committees for the Japan free trade agreement relate to the fact that we described it as an enhanced continuity agreement, which is why we have been putting it through enhanced scrutiny compared to other free trade agreements. This latest agreement, the Ukraine free trade agreement, will be scrutinised in the same way as other continuity agreements were previously scrutinised.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, for his comments. The continuity agreements were those that were in force before 1 January or had been agreed to by the EU, even if not fully ratified, before then. We were fully participating members of the European Union then. The committees of this House and the other place that scrutinise European legislation—the noble Lord knows much more about that than I do, being a new boy—scrutinised these agreements and did that satisfactorily.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank everybody who has spoken in this debate. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I have felt optimistic at some moments and deeply depressed at others. I am going to end up being optimistic because I am that sort of chap. I will take the good that I have heard from my noble friends Lord Blunkett and Lord Haskel, in particular. I was grateful on this occasion not to be attacked by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. It is always a good day when that happens—I am only joking.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, made some good points about keeping in mind the difference between ratification and implementation as we go forward. He is right to stress that point and I am sure we will come back to it. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised a number of questions that had a bearing on that. I started to get slightly worried about where he was heading —for example, on the issue about the implementation of agreements made under the royal prerogative being ratified under the CRaG arrangements. This is an obvious consequence of where we stand with our current procedures. It leaves the question open as to why we need primary legislation. If the Minister is saying that all future deals are to be made in relation to existing standards that will never be lowered, in view of not changing or disadvantaging our labour and environmental standards and our future arrangements on climate change—on the agenda later today—what is this primary legislation of which he speaks? This is something we will need to come back to and I will be thinking about it.

Finally, I want to pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which I thought was a good one. Can I join her in asking the Minister whether he could write to us about it? Paragraphs 44 and 45 of the Explanatory Notes refer to varieties of trade agreements and the Minister did not deal with that in his response to the noble Baroness. The types of agreement within the definition of “international trade agreements” include memorandums of understanding and he will know that this matter has been raised with him by the International Agreements Committee of your Lordships’ House. It is a topical point and I would be grateful if he could give us some further information when he is able to do so. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. I have carefully noted them.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am conscious of time and I will try to be brief. We had an interesting discussion because this was a good group, even though it was quite widely drawn. We touched on the limits and what the Government should have to say about their policies going into negotiations. We talked about what aspirations they might have, how they go forward and the scrutiny arrangements that should follow. Out of that came a sense, that we all shared, that if you wanted evidence that trade matters to Parliament, this debate and particularly the section on the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, proved that we were talking about substantial issues at the heart of what we think about a democracy and that are important for how we relate to society more widely.

Having said that, we should not forget the earlier discussions, particularly those led by my noble friends Lord Hendy and Lord Hain. I thought that the speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, and my noble friend Lord Judd, were also important and I also appreciated the comments made by my noble friend Lord Hunt. We covered a lot of ground, have a lot to think about and will read Hansard carefully. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Trade: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Wednesday 23rd September 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
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My Lords, in the recent agreement in principle with Japan that we were so pleased to reach, there is an extensive data and digital services chapter that we hope will be a model for our future free trade agreements. The points made by the noble Baroness are important and are always in our mind when we negotiate these agreements.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the CPTPP contains ISDS clauses? Given that the Secretary of State described this as an

“advanced agreement full of countries committed to the rules of international trade”,

why do the Government believe it necessary to provide secretive ISDS structures when we and the current members are in good standing and have perfectly adequate legal systems?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the UK will ensure that any future accession talks with the CPTPP are consistent with our interests and our stated policies and priorities. We are clear that our future investment policy will continue to protect our right to regulate in the public interest and we will ensure that UK investors abroad receive the same high standard of treatment that foreign investors receive in the United Kingdom.

Motor Sector: Export Markets

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, will not the problem here be rules of origin and the target of 50%, which the noble Lord referred to in an earlier response? However, according to the SMMT, the proportion of a car made in the UK is currently less than 25%. Does the noble Lord agree with the SMMT that, if the current UK and EU FTA negotiations fail to deliver rules of origin provisions, there will be a 10% tariff on finished vehicles and trucks and up to a 4% tariff on parts when exporting to the EU, and that this will cost the industry more than $4.5 billion annually? Therefore, is there a plan?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, of course there is a plan. It is to conclude a successful negotiation with the EU in relation to these matters. That is vital because the automotive sector is extremely important to the UK. The UK exports 80% of vehicles manufactured, which accounts for no less than 14% of UK-manufactured exports.

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the kind words that have been expressed across the House about my maiden speech and for the warm welcome I have received from your Lordships. I was particularly pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord McNally, refer to my emollient bedside manner, and the reference to Standard Life from the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. I have been greeted with great courtesy by noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. I feel that I have a very constructive relationship with him, and of course I have known the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for more years than he and I would probably care to remember. I always enjoy the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, teasing me about my previous jobs.

I join other noble Lords in congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. His comments on equality and human rights were pitched very nicely. I am delighted to welcome him to the House and have no doubt that it will benefit from his knowledge and experience.

This is the first piece of legislation that I will be guiding through this House and I look forward to working with noble Lords to deliver a Bill that provides some of the certainty that businesses so desperately need in these unprecedented times.

I am of course following in the footsteps of my noble friend Lady Fairhead, who was in this very same situation in the 2017-19 Session. She undertook that role with calmness, courtesy and expertise. I have heard various references to the constructive way in which she dealt with Peers, and I will try to follow in her footsteps in that regard.

This place has the benefit of being able to hear from many experts, and we have seen that in action today. Being a newcomer, I stand in awe of the knowledge that there is in your Lordships’ House. I am particularly grateful today for the contributions that I heard from my noble friends Lady Neville-Rolfe and Lord Lansley, the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Quin, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, among many others. I completely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, about the need for language skills, and I endorse her views on that.

As ever, the considerable experience of this House will be invaluable in helping us to put in place an effective independent trade policy now that we have left the EU. I was pleased to hear support for the objectives of the Bill from a number of noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Astor, Lord Lilley, Lady Hooper, Lord Taylor, Lord Risby, Lady Redfern, Lord Sheikh, Lady Noakes, Lord Trenchard and many others.

This has been a very wide-ranging debate and I will endeavour to respond to as many points as I can. I may not be able to address all of them in the time available, but of course my door is always open and I am happy to follow up individual points and questions from noble Lords.

We intend to join the GPA, as the House has heard, as an independent party on substantially the same terms as we had under EU membership. This approach will support a swift accession at the end of the transition period and preserve UK businesses’ access to procurement opportunities covered by the GPA, which are estimated to be worth £1.3 trillion annually. My noble friend Lord Trenchard spoke convincingly about this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, asked about SMEs in the GPA. Non-discrimination is the core principle of public procurement in the UK, and as such we do not have set-asides for SMEs in international agreements. We have an active policy agenda to facilitate SME participation in public procurement, and we will continue to advance that agenda as we accede to the GPA as an independent state.

A number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Balfe and the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Whitty, have raised concerns during this debate that the Government’s continuity programme will reduce standards. I want again to be quite clear about this: now that we have left the EU, the UK will be the same country that it has always been—dependable, open and fair. The Government have been clear that we have no intention of lowering standards, and we have fulfilled this commitment through our deeds. None of the 20 agreements already signed has reduced standards in any area.

I recognise the strength of feeling that the issue of standards generates among colleagues on all sides of the House. We can see this during the current debates on the Agriculture Bill and we saw it during the debates on the Trade Bill 2017-19. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Trade and my Defra colleagues have said, this Government will stand firm in trade negotiations. We will always do the right thing by our farmers and aim to secure new opportunities for the industry. This Government will not dilute our high environment protection, animal welfare and food standards. I hope that noble Lords will be reassured that all imports, whether covered by a trade agreement or otherwise, have to comply with the import requirements as provided for under the WTO SPS agreement.

This is a highly regulated space. In the case of food safety, it will be the job of the food standards agencies to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards and that consumers are protected from unsafe food that does not meet those standards. Decisions on these standards are a matter solely for the UK and are made separately from any trade agreements. It is also important to note that our existing import standards already include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products. They also prohibit anything other than potable water being used to decontaminate poultry carcasses.

These protections are already enshrined in our domestic statutes and the Government will be upholding them. Any changes to them would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament. Decisions around standards are a matter for Parliament and they cannot and will not be traded away in negotiations. We have been very clear that our high food safety standards will continue to apply to all food imports, and our priority is to ensure trade agreements benefit the whole UK, including consumers, farmers and businesses.

Some peers have also expressed concerns as to whether our continuity agreements will be consistent with specific international environmental obligations. The noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott, Lady Sheehan and Lady Hayman, and the noble Lord, Lord Oates, all talked about the climate emergency. I can confirm that all the EU agreements we are transitioning are fully compliant with all our international obligations, including the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The same is true of human rights and labour rights. I hope this House will acknowledge the UK’s strong history of defending human and labour rights, alongside promoting our values globally. The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, spoke with passion on this, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, on labour rights.

The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, talked about the benefits we will eventually get from operationalising FTAs. I will dwell on this for moment. It is easy to think that these are just pieces of paper, but their real worth comes when businesses large and small throughout the United Kingdom take advantage of them, hopefully using digital techniques and gaining benefit. That is why we are negotiating FTAs.

I will quickly deal with some of the specific questions raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about intellectual property. As he will know, our intellectual property regime is consistently rated as one of the best in the world. One of our priorities will be to ensure that future trade agreements do not negatively impact on standards in this area and that our regime will promote trade in intellectual property.

My noble friend Lord Astor asked about trade envoys. I pay tribute to the role he has played as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Oman. My noble friend asked when a newly appointed trade envoy will be announced. As he and I know, this is a train that has been a long time coming. While I cannot provide an exact date, I assure my noble friend that he will not have to wait very long.

The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, asked for a quick update on FTA discussions with Turkey. We place a great deal of importance on our trading relationships with Turkey. Bilateral trade was worth over £18.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of June 2020. We want to protect those existing trade flows by replicating the current trading relationships as far as possible. However, Turkey’s unique position of being in a customs union with the EU means that some of our future trading relationships will be influenced by the agreement we have reached with the EU. My trade colleagues are having good, positive discussions with Turkey, and I am convinced that eventually they will reach a favourable outcome.

The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, asked for an update on the agreements with east and southern African countries. The UK, Southern African Customs Union member states and Mozambique continuity agreement was signed in October 2019 and passed CRaG in February 2020. It has not yet been fully ratified by all third countries that were signatories to the original agreement, but I am pleased to say that HMG in our local posts are working closely with local partners to support full ratification and implementation of this agreement.

My noble friend Lady Hooper asked about the EU-Mercosur agreement. This will not be in force before the end of the transition period, but we will look to discuss our future trade relationship bilaterally and collectively and to develop it further in due course.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked about the CPTPP—the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. I am pleased to say that all its members have now welcomed our interest in accession. We will decide whether and when to formally apply to join in light of these continuing engagements, the process of bilateral negotiations with CPTPP members and our confidence that we will be able to negotiate accession on terms compatible with our broader interests, which is, of course, the only basis on which we would want to join.

The noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, asked for reassurance about the important work that our standards agencies, including UKAS, do. I can confirm that we are very grateful for what they do, and that they will still play a large role in helping us deliver our trade agreements.

A number of noble Lords raised the important question of agriculture, and I totally understand. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that the views of farmers, producers and consumers are able to inform trade policy. As we have heard during the debate, we have established a Trade and Agriculture Commission, following consultation with the industry, and we have a farming trade advisory group. I reassure the noble Earl, Lord Devon, that the membership of these groups is not secret: you can find it on GOV.UK. We are on the side of farmers, and the establishment of the commission has had overwhelming support from the National Farmers’ Union and many others.

I realise there is a strong concern felt by certain noble Lords on animal welfare. Of course, this is laudable but, as noble Lords will appreciate, it is not within the gift of the UK Government to legislate for overseas countries. Indeed, legislating for higher agricultural production standards could have far-reaching, unintended consequences, which could harm the UK economy and our relationships with countries around the world, particularly our partners in the developing world.

We heard concerns from some noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, about the National Health Service. I reiterate yet again that our position is absolute: the NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to any company, anywhere. It will remain universal and free at the point of need, and no trade agreement will alter that fundamental principle. I noted carefully the points made about health data. I love the expression “mutant algorithms” from the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and I will draw his point to the attention of our negotiators.

ISDS is a subject which often causes excitement, and my noble friend Lord Caithness raised the issue during his contribution, as did the noble Lords, Lord Freyberg and Lord Hendy. I confirm that ISDS tribunals can never overrule the sovereignty of Parliament. They cannot overturn or force any changes to law; they can only award compensation if a foreign investor’s rights under an international treaty, to which the UK is party, have been breached. ISDS cannot force the privatisation of public services. There has never been a successful ISDS claim against the United Kingdom, but our investors operating overseas have often benefited from these agreements.

I turn now to the question of parliamentary scrutiny. In relation to the continuity agreements, our objective, as noble Lords know, for transitioning EU third-country trade agreements has been to secure continuity in existing trading relationships. The original EU trade agreements have already been scrutinised, both by the European Parliament, on which the UK sat, and member state legislatures such as our own.

I know that last time a similar Bill was debated, noble Lords did so in the absence of any real-world example of how the continuity programme would work, but we are in a different position now. We have ensured that Parliament has had the opportunity to fully scrutinise all continuity trade agreements, and of the 20 we have signed so far, noble Lords have held three debates on six of them, and not one attracted a Motion to Regret. To clarify a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, made about the UK-Israel continuity agreement, it went through the CRaG process and concluded that process in March 2019.

Furthermore, to provide additional transparency for our programme, we have voluntarily adopted the proposal put forward during the passage of the Bill in the 2017-19 Session and laid a report alongside each transitioned trade agreement to explain to Parliament our approach to delivering continuity.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I make a point that might help the discussion?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Con)
- Hansard - -

I will be very happy to discuss that point with the noble Lord afterwards, if it would be of assistance.

Our continuity agreement treaty scrutiny arrangements received praise recently from the House of Lords EU Committee, which, in its recent report Treaty Scrutiny: Working Practices said:

“We encourage other Whitehall departments to follow the lead of the Department for International Trade and make similar commitments to ensure that other important agreements … are scrutinised just as effectively as trade agreements.”


Praise indeed.

Many Peers raised issues in relation to parliamentary scrutiny of future free trade agreements. While, of course, the Trade Bill does not deal with these agreements, I recognise the importance that noble Lords attach to Parliament having proper oversight. As I said when I opened this debate, the implementation of such agreements will be subject to separate scrutiny arrangements. We will be publishing negotiation objectives, voluntarily publishing impact assessments before and after negotiations, keeping Parliament updated on negotiations and, at the end of negotiations, treaties will be subject to the usual ratification processes.

I know that a number of noble Lords do not share my view that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act provides an effective and robust framework for scrutiny of all treaties that require ratification, but it has worked, it is the arrangement we have, and it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that the information we provide under CRaG is transparent and helpful and allows, in particular, the committees to do their work properly. The UK has scrutiny mechanisms via the CRaG procedure whereby Parliament can see exactly what we have negotiated and can, if it chooses, prevent ratification by voting against the treaty—in the case of the other place, it can do so indefinitely.

I stress that no trade agreement can, of itself, alter our domestic legislation. We will ensure that there will be a report, independent of government, published by the committees at the beginning of the CRaG process, that will assist parliamentarians and the public in understanding the implications of agreements. We have heard a number of comments from noble Lords about devolution. We have listened carefully to the concerns of the devolved Administrations and I am pleased that the Scottish Government have now recommended consent to the Bill. I hope that continued engagement with the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive will lead to further recommendations for legislative consent to the Bill.

This has been a long debate and a number of extremely valuable points have been raised. With a huge sense of relief, I now turn to my closing remarks, and I imagine that noble Lords are as grateful for that as I am. I know that I have not been able to address all the points raised by your Lordships, but if there are matters that noble Lords would find it helpful to discuss further, I would be only too happy to meet them at any stage. I look forward to the further stages of the Bill and to working in a spirit of partnership and purpose to provide the certainty that businesses and consumers in all four corners of our great nation crave and need in the current circumstances.

Russia: Trade

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Tuesday 28th July 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the quotation to which the noble Lord refers was a selective quotation picked up by Chinese newspapers from a much longer speech. I hold no candle for any authoritarian regime and I am pleased to confirm that in front of the House.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government recently confirmed that the attendance and participation of UK companies at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum was entirely a matter for their decision. Can the Minister explain how such unmoderated attendance at SPIEF is compatible with ensuring that we continue sanctions, and compliant trade and investment, with Russia?

Trade Agreements

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
- Hansard - -

My Lords, our manifesto was clear that in all our trade negotiations we will seek to maintain our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. We have recently announced the setting-up of the Trade and Agriculture Commission to ensure that the strongest possible range of views is made available to us in our policymaking. There is always a trade-off between getting on with things and time taken; in consultation with members of the commission, we felt that six months was the right time to allow for this work so that, in due course, its results can be made available to the House.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Haskel mentioned the recent report of your Lordships’ Sub-Committee on International Agreements. The Minister will be aware that that committee has announced a significant change in practice: in future, it will assess all new trade agreements on their merits and flag up issues that this House might wish to debate prior to ratification. Will the Minister join me in warmly welcoming this long-overdue first step towards proper parliamentary scrutiny of future trade agreements?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am a huge champion of transparency and open dialogue in these matters. I believe that we will come to better decisions with such transparency and I welcome the work that the IAC is doing to bring these matters, in due course, before the House.

Saudi Arabia: Arms Sales

Debate between Lord Grimstone of Boscobel and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
Friday 10th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade (Lord Grimstone of Boscobel) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the short answer to that Question is no. The Government were required by the court judgment to retake their licensing decisions; they have now done so in a way that reflects the judgment. The Government take their export responsibilities seriously and assess all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have a brilliant arms industry in the United Kingdom, and I have no problem with arms sales to other countries, as long as they are properly controlled under the precautionary principle. But the underlying issue raised by the Government’s decision is that they need to decide what kind of global nation they intend the UK to be: a champion of fair and decent values or an apologist for human rights abusers.

Announcing the decision to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen on the day after 20 Saudi officials were placed on the FCO sanction list for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi—in part for criticising Saudi conduct in Yemen—is an extraordinary stretch, even for this Government, who seem to pride themselves on holding two or more contradictory positions at the same time. Can the Minister explain how the revised methodology can possibly allow the Government to describe a five-year, Saudi-led assault on Yemen, using British planes, technical support and equipment, which has seen thousands of civilians killed in schools, hospitals, funeral halls and market places, and left some 20 million civilians needing humanitarian assistance just to survive, as a set of “isolated incidents”?

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel Portrait Lord Grimstone of Boscobel
- Hansard - -

First of all, I utterly condemn the reprehensible killing of Mr Khashoggi. The UK and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing bilateral relationship based on a number of pillars, including trade, defence, security, energy and shared concern about regional issues. Saudi Arabia is a major political and economic power in the Middle East, and its position as home to the cities of Makkah and Medina give it unmatched convening power in the Arab world. We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Saudi authorities, using a range of ministerial and other diplomatic channels.