2 Lord Udny-Lister debates involving the Department for International Trade

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to speak in support of the Bill. It will enable the Government to get on with the job of implementing the FTAs that have been secured with both Australia and New Zealand, two of our closest historical allies. I draw the House’s attention to my declared interests in the register.

I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend the Minister for his introduction, in which he set out clearly the benefits of the Bill. I also thank my noble friend Lord Swire for his maiden speech.

It is important to note, and to underline, that the agreements are the first the UK has negotiated from scratch in almost 50 years. That demonstrates that, at long last, the UK has started to unshackle itself from the restraints of the single market and to embark on its own independent trade policy, which will develop growth right across these islands in time.

As a member of the International Agreements Committee, I have followed both trade deals with much interest as they have passed through the long-established and thorough scrutiny processes of our parliamentary system. On that point, there has been much commentary already this afternoon about whether the Government have fulfilled their scrutiny obligations. Having been involved, playing a very small part, in the scrutiny of these deals, I for one am satisfied that the Government have gone above and beyond in providing this Parliament with a plethora of opportunities to examine the details and to get involved in the process of making sure that our free trade deals deliver for all. Indeed, if we compare the passage of these deals with that of the Japan FTA back in 2020, it is evident that the Government have not only exceeded their statutory obligations on the sharing of materials but are continually putting in place more and more opportunities for Parliament to provide effective scrutiny. When it comes to assessing the future impact of these FTAs, can my noble friend the Minister reassure the House of the Government’s commitment to publishing both a monitoring report and a compressive evaluation report at the appropriate time?

Throughout the passage of these FTAs, much has been propagated on the topic of agriculture. Last year, when your Lordships took note of the fourth report from the International Agreements Committee, I warned the House that the National Farmers’ Union, among others, had repeatedly tried to peddle the myth that these agreements would fail to deliver for British farmers and that our standards would somehow be eroded over time. Like my noble friend Lord Frost, I am concerned that the long lead times before we get true trade running in agriculture will slow down the benefits of cheaper food. Although I acknowledge that there are challenges for our hill farmers, these two things have to be resolved; we need a solution.

I put it to your Lordships’ House, as I did in July last year, that the Government have been highly successful in achieving significant safeguards for British farmers, namely through tariff rate quotas, product-specific safeguards and bilateral safeguard measures. The Government should be commended for securing these safeguards for the most vulnerable parts of the UK farming community.

That said, it is important to note, however, that both Australia and New Zealand have systems similar to our own. With that comes the ease of upholding the UK’s long-established and globally renowned standards. As we progress additional trade agreements with countries such as India and Mexico, and when we eventually start going into South America, it will become increasingly hard for us to secure such safeguards. I therefore hope that we can use the experience gained in these negotiations to uphold our standards in the future, and I wish the Government well with that endeavour.

Importantly, the implementation of these deals will be an important stepping-stone in our accession to the CPTPP, the benefits of which for the UK are well known: joining one of the largest trading blocs in the world and having access to a vast network of modern deals spanning the Americas and Indo-Pacific. With Australia and New Zealand as leading members of the CPTPP, supporting the UK’s bid for membership, we should not be looking at this Bill as simply the ratification and implementation of two well-negotiated deals, but as a fundamental component in the UK gaining future access to a free trade area encompassing 11 strategically important states, with a combined GDP of £8.4 trillion.

When evaluating the impact these deals will have on the UK’s nations and regions, I am filled with optimism and excitement, especially for our SMEs. It is evident that the Government have worked hard to ensure that both London’s and Scotland’s financial service industries will directly benefit from these deals, while also ensuring that thousands of jobs are set to be created in the north-east and that tariffs are reduced for textile exports in Northern Ireland.

On examining the details of both deals, I am convinced that there will be a UK-wide benefit, and I call on our regional mayors and the Ministers of the devolved Administrations to stand ready to build on the benefits that these deals will deliver. With this in mind, could my noble friend in his summary inform the House of how the Department for International Trade is supporting the nations and regions to make the most of these deals? Does he agree that it is now time for some of these officeholders to put aside their Brexit-bashing views so that their constituents may fully embrace the opportunities to come?

Throughout the progress of the Bill, both here and in another place, the Government have been quick to address any concerns raised. I therefore find myself drawn back to the essence and scope of the Bill, which is the ratification and implementation of two highly scrutinised and beneficial free trade agreements with two of our oldest and most important allies. With the businesses and citizens of this country facing the challenges of the cost of living crisis, we need the growth and job creation that will be delivered only by agreements such as these. I conclude by welcoming the Bill, as we need to allow His Majesty’s Government to get on with the job of delivery, so that businesses and citizens all around the UK can start to feel the benefits of these historic deals and many more deals that I hope will come.

Bilateral Free Trade Agreements

Lord Udny-Lister Excerpts
Tuesday 20th December 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Noble Lords may not wish for this, but I do. We will be able to have trade agreements with India, the GCC, the CPTPP, Switzerland, Greenland, Mexico and Canada, and ultimately, state by state, with the US. This is an extremely powerful policy to allow our professionals to generate wealth and security by working in these states. I applaud the DIT for the work it has been doing on that front.

Lord Udny-Lister Portrait Lord Udny-Lister (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

My interests are declared in the register as co-chair of one of the business councils and director of another, both of which are voluntary. Will the Minister confirm that he will not turn these FTAs into Christmas trees covering everything under the sun and, in the process, miss the one thing that matters, which is trade?

Lord Johnson of Lainston Portrait Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I greatly thank my noble friend for his comment. At no point have the Government not taken human rights very seriously, but we see trade deals as specifically focused on trade. This is exactly what we want to increase the inward investment and exports that my good friends the noble Lords opposite are so keen on.