Debates between Lord Krebs and Lord Purvis of Tweed during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Wed 20th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords

Trade Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Purvis of Tweed
3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 20th March 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 View all Trade Bill 2017-19 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 167-I Marshalled list for Third Reading (PDF) - (19 Mar 2019)
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I join the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, in congratulating the Minister on her work in bringing forward this amendment, which commits us to maintaining high standards of food production, welfare and environmental protection. I have, however, a few questions that I hope the Minister may be able to answer and thereby clarify certain small areas of concern.

The first question is on whether Amendment 2 applies only to trade deals that are rolled over from existing EU third-country deals, or to all future trade deals. Secondly, does Amendment 2 include all provisions in rolled-over regulations? My third question is about the phrase “levels of statutory protection”—does that include levels set out in policy guidance? Fourthly, following a comment by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, can the Government provide at this stage a commitment to non-regression on standards?

As an addendum, I echo a point made by my noble friend Lady Deech: the high standards of food safety in this country are at least in part attributable to the role of the Food Standards Agency, of which I had the privilege of standing as its first chairman. My final question to the Minister is: can she reassure this House that after Brexit the independence and powers of the Food Standards Agency will not be eroded, and will continue to provide regulatory effectiveness—and reassurance to the public that our high standards of food safety will be effectively assessed and managed by an independent body?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, those who have followed the progress of the Bill in this House will have seen that the Government have acted with integrity in recognising that some of us felt that an extra level of protection for the continuity agreements should be recognised in statute. Across the House, we are genuinely grateful to the Minister for the manner in which she has responded.

I shall raise a couple of points for clarification. I welcome the amendments. The House will be aware that, in the early stages of our consideration, the amendments that I tabled, which were supported by other noble Lords, sought that our obligations under the international agreements in these areas be recognised. From the discussions we have had with the Minister and the Government, we now have the Government’s settled view, which is to maintain UK levels of statutory protection. That is satisfactory, but aligning ourselves to the obligations in the international agreements would have addressed the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, about the different agencies and bodies operating under the obligations of the international agreements rather than those that have been transferred into UK statutory or regulatory provision. I understand that the former is harder to do and the latter is clearer in legislation.

We need clarification about maintaining UK levels of statutory protection. The level of statutory protection in Scotland or Wales in some of these areas may be higher than the level in England, and in some of these areas there will be interaction with devolved legislation. In some areas there will be Scottish legislation or Welsh regulations and English regulations applying only to England. Which is considered of higher status? We do not know yet. I will be interested in the Government’s view.

My second point perhaps addresses the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. We know that these regulations will be for the continuity agreement, and by definition they will be limited to the agreements to which we are already signatories and which we have already put into UK legislation. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and other noble Lords that this sets the framework we would like to see in the non-regression provisions in future trade agreements. In the Urgent Question just before this debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen of Elie, was very keen to use the words “mandate in Parliament” with reference to the position of UK Ministers and making decisions with the European Union. In the way forward for these regulations, we are in effect starting to see an emerging set of parameters for a mandate for future trade agreements.

I have added my name to Amendment 3 on human rights. The complexity and sophistication of trade agreements are such that human rights are a key element that needs protection. Whether they relate to our commitments on modern slavery or to supply-train issues of human trafficking, trade agreements and our trading relationship with other countries bring in elements of human rights beyond purely trading relationships. That is why I was happy to put my name to this amendment, so that the Government can clarify how human rights are captured within it. The helpful briefing from the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicated that while the Human Rights Act 1998 does not fall within the scope of the delegated powers in this area, it is broadly satisfied with maintaining current levels of protection. It believes that sets a wider precedent that can be taken into consideration on issues such as human rights. I will be grateful if the Minister can confirm that the Government agree with that interpretation. It would be a great reassurance for us that human rights provisions are maintained in the continuity agreements and will set a precedent for future trade agreements.

I welcome the Government not only listening but acting in bringing forward their amendment.