All Liz Twist contributions to the Trade Act 2021

Tue 19th January 2021
Trade Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments
Ping Pong
Ping Pong: House of Commons
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (543 words)
Mon 20th July 2020
Trade Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage
Report stage: House of Commons
Report stage
Department for International Trade
3 interactions (473 words)

Trade Bill

(Consideration of Lords amendments)
Liz Twist Excerpts
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Imran Ahmad Khan Portrait Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) (Con) [V]
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Alongside many Conservative colleagues, I have had a very difficult decision to make. Rebellion against one’s own Government is torturous, but in this case I feel compelled. I have no doubt but that it is the right thing to do.

The United Kingdom has a proud history as a staunch defender of human rights, champion of the oppressed and celebrant of diversity and freedoms everywhere. The anti-genocide amendment is our chance to continue this proud tradition and help protect innocent lives from evildoers. The amendment creates a necessary mechanism by which the United Kingdom is able to uphold its international obligations regarding genocide, and safeguards us from being complicit, through commerce and trade, with genocidal regimes. I have spent many years in places scarred by war, slavery and genocide. What I witnessed moulded me, and I swore I would do all I could to inhibit such suffering.

Critics of the amendment note that a designation of genocide should be determined only by international courts. We all know that there are certain states against which a verdict of genocide is inconceivable, due to the nature and limitations of the international legal system, its courts and base Realpolitik. We must not allow those who commit crimes against humanity, such as genocide, to be protected by the deficiencies of our evolving international system. We must be prepared to act unilaterally when required and lead by example.

Encouraging states to uphold their international human rights obligations should be the keystone on which we build global Britain. As a newly independent, sovereign United Kingdom, now is the time to re-establish ourselves as a global moral authority. The best way to do this is by standing up for our values and employing innovative thinking, as exemplified in the genocide amendment.

I have heard several hon. Members express concern about our courts determining whether there has been a genocide. I find it curious that international courts are not objected to, yet our domestic ones are. Other Members have suggested that Parliament alone should determine genocide; I remind them that this runs against long-established UK policy. I also ask Members to consider that in 2016, this House unanimously voted to recognise the Yazidi genocide, but the Government took no action, stating that genocide recognition is for the courts.

I loathe rebellion and would go to great lengths to avoid it, but there are occasions when it is simply impossible to reconcile personal conviction with party loyalty. The genocide amendment is not perfect, but it provides a real opportunity for a new beginning for a re-imagined foreign policy. I urge all in this House to support the genocide amendment and find themselves on the right side of history.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) [V]
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It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) in saying that whenever this Bill comes to the Chamber, the interest and concern from my constituents is huge.

I will start by talking about amendment 4 and the NHS. So much of the past year has been about protecting the NHS. It is fair to say that we all appreciate the NHS more than ever before, and this must be reflected in the Bill. My constituents are concerned about the increasing marketisation and outsourcing of NHS services. They are concerned, too, about the selling of and open access to NHS UK patient data. They want to protect our NHS. That is why amendment 4 on data protection is so important. While the Government consistently claim in public statements that the NHS is not for sale in future trade deals, the best way to ensure this is to legislate in this Bill, once and for all, to ensure that the NHS is outside the scope of any future trade agreement, in all respects. The Government’s resistance to taking that step and to including that in the Bill gives us reason for concern about their long-term intentions.

I turn to amendment 6 on our food and farming standards. I have received an overwhelming number of emails from constituents on food standards and animal welfare standards, which go hand in hand. It is so important that we get this right. We have some of the most stringent food and farming standards in the world, in terms of the rules that producers must keep to before food reaches our shelves. It is crucial that we keep the standards consistent across imported goods as well. We need a code of practice, as provided for by amendment 6, to ensure that standards are maintained in any trade deal expected to affect food, animal welfare or, very importantly, the environment.

It is really important, as we have heard, that Parliament has the chance to scrutinise properly the full text of any trade deals. The CRaG arrangements are simply not effective and strong enough to ensure that we have a chance to consider whatever is in the trade deals. We need a much stronger way of scrutinising these deals, which affect so many aspects of our lives. That is why I support the amendments on scrutiny.

Finally, I want to speak in support of the amendments on human rights, including the so-called genocide amendment. For so many years, UK Governments have supported the principle that trade treaties should contain commitments on the protection of human rights, and have given the European Union the right to suspend or revoke those treaties if there are serious abuses of human rights. Now that we are no longer part of the EU, it is right that we make sure that we retain that provision. The two cross-party amendments to the Bill agreed by the House of Lords would obligate the Government to provide an assessment of the human rights record of a state before starting trade negotiations with it, as well as allowing for that assessment to be scrutinised by MPs and peers. It is vital that we include these changes.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con) [V]
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I start by saying that I will not vote in favour of any Lords amendments this evening.

The huge efforts we witnessed the trade team make in order to secure continuity agreements worth £897 billion are not just one of the strongest expressions of Brexit delivered, but bring confidence to businesses by eliminating the uncertainty that so many pundits said that Brexit would bring. That confidence means investment, which means growth, and growth means jobs. It is lamentable, especially at this time of crisis, that we have not had a single speech from an Opposition Member of any party that promotes UK plc; instead, we have had a litany of criticism and negativism, which does the opposite of generating business confidence. One would think that at least some of the pragmatists on the Opposition Benches might, in the national interest, bring themselves to accept that Brexit has happened, and that we should come together to do everything possible to rebuild our economy, because that means jobs for the people of Islington and Camden, as it does for the people of Dudley North.

There are huge prizes to be had. Accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership would open up amazing opportunities in a market worth about $30 trillion. I have huge confidence that our team will bring this about; that we will sign agreements with Australia, New Zealand and the USA; and that we will strengthen ties with Mercosur countries such as Brazil, which have huge growth potential.

Lords amendment 3 has special importance for some of my colleagues. Although I completely agree with the spirit and intentions behind it, the key for me is that Parliament must always remain sovereign. Ultimately, this is what Brexit was all about—answering the crucial question, “Who decides?” The unintended consequence of this amendment is that it would provide the judiciary with powers that would undermine Parliament. My contention is that questions of genocide—its definition, its impact over time, and measures for responding to it—are so complex that it is not the judiciary, but Parliament, under advice and with the royal prerogative, that is best placed to deal with them. Therefore, while I very much respect colleagues who are minded to support this amendment, and understand their reasons for doing so, I will not.

Trade Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
Liz Twist Excerpts
Monday 20th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for International Trade
Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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I start by declaring an interest: my wife’s family are farmers. I have listened carefully to the debate and studied all the amendments, and I feel that there has been significant mission creep among the amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) said a few moments ago, people seem to have forgotten what the Bill is actually about. The Bill is about those all-important continuity trade agreements that are vital for British farmers, British exporting businesses and the United Kingdom as a whole. The Bill categorically is not about new free trade deals, important as those are—and I am delighted to see colleagues from the Department for International Trade busy negotiating them.

When it comes to scrutiny, I very much welcome everything that my right hon. Friend the Minister said in opening the debate about the lengths to which the Government have gone to ensure that differences in any continuity agreements are laid before Parliament and how, likewise, where trade deals are likely to be different—where the Government have an ambition to get a better deal, such as with Japan—greater lengths are taken.

On farming, agriculture and our food standards, I cannot put it better than my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts). He pointed out to this House that, as we leave the European Union, those all-important food standards will be transferred from EU law into British law, and the only way that that law could be changed is by this House. So it is a false argument to suggest that there needs to be an amendment to this Bill to change fundamentally what this Bill is about to secure the standards that the Prime Minister has committed to and that were in the manifesto that I and all Members on the Government side of the House stood on. My right hon. Friend the Minister has repeated that on many occasions, as indeed did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), who did so much to get this Bill back before the House of Commons.

When I heard the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), who is not now in his place, talk about this earlier, I felt he had a very one-sided view of the argument, in that it was all about protectionism and the domestic market. Of course, the domestic market is important to all our farmers, but there are opportunities for international trade out there, such as the lifting of the ban on British beef into America, which is worth £66 million. Through trade, our farming can be assured and prosperous for the future.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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I have a sense of déjà vu, because it is just under 18 months ago that we had a debate in this Chamber on future trade agreements—there were a lot fewer of us in here then. We discussed the very issues that we are talking about today, and it seems that the Government have not listened substantially to the concerns that were raised then. In the time I have available, I want to talk briefly about a number of those concerns, because hundreds of my constituents have written to me about them over the last few days, and they have written to me about them time and again.

The first is the NHS and the need to ensure that it is protected from international competition. I will be supporting new clause 17, because it is essential that our NHS remains our NHS and we are able to protect it from competition. We already have some competition, and we need to make sure that the NHS is not open to the highest bidder. People actually want that written into the Trade Bill to ensure that that cannot happen.

The same goes for environmental and food safety standards. We have talked about chlorine chicken and we have heard something about the environment, but there are a whole range of issues. Animal welfare issues are at the heart of these concerns. It is not just about chlorine-washed chicken or more detail; people are concerned also about the impact of trade deals on the environment. This Bill is a lost opportunity. We could be using this Bill to be creative, and to ensure that we safeguard our environment. For example—an issue I have raised in other places sometimes—there is the issue of deforestation and ensuring that we can protect the forests through our trade deals. The hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), who is not in his place, said earlier, “Aren’t the public ahead of us on this?” Indeed, the public are ahead of us on consumer protection, and they are saying to us that these safeguards need to be written into the Bill.

Finally, we have talked a bit during the debate about labour standards, and I am particularly concerned that in this Bill the Government should be protecting the trade and agreements we have with less developed countries and ensuring that fair trade and other trading agreements with them are safeguarded as an important part of their development.

On scrutiny, a great deal has been said. I certainly will be supporting new clause 4. There is huge concern—and people should not underestimate this—that deals will be signed off behind closed doors. Frankly, statutory instruments—and we have all been in loads of those Committees in recent days—are not the answer. We need proper debate and scrutiny. These are the concerns that Members have raised, and this is a missed opportunity.

Jo Gideon Portrait Jo Gideon (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Con)
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I am excited by the possibilities for our future as an independent trading nation, and I support the Bill and our listening Government in taking us forward. The Bill is about necessary data gathering for future improvements, cheerleading, safeguarding and the effective communication of helpful information. It is not about protectionism or feather-bedding. The balance is to enable British exports that can compete against the world marketplace for goods and services to do so on a level playing field.

I believe that the Bill helps to get the balance right. For example, it is quite right that the Government intend to join the Agreement on Government Procurement as an independent party on substantially the same terms as we had under EU membership. The GPA provides UK businesses with access to public procurement opportunities worth some £1.3 trillion per year—opportunities for which they are willing and able to compete fairly. Of course, GPA partner access to UK public contracts will ensure taxpayers and consumers get the best value for money on major contracts, which in turn maintains the imperative for UK firms to stay innovative and competitive.

An important part of the balance is to ensure opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, not just the mega companies. The UK rightly pursues an active SME participation procurement policy, and as an independent party in the GPA we will have the opportunity to engage others on sustainable procurement, social value and workforce considerations.

When exporters do everything right, and when they produce great goods and services at the right price and in accordance with all the relevant rules, the last thing they want to face is competition that has circumvented the rules and is artificially supported, so another part of getting the balance right is to ensure that remedies are available when needed. I welcome the Trade Remedies Authority, which will have important work to do in ensuring continuity of remedial action, not least for Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramics.

I applaud the Department’s determination to secure an ever-increasing number of continuity agreements. It is important for business confidence that we make as seamless a transition into becoming an independent trading nation as possible, while signposting that the door is open to better trade agreements with various partners in the years to come. The Bill provides both continuity for agreements and remedies inherited from our membership of the EU and for the future independent free-trading policy that we wish to strike. The Bill protects our national standards for our workforce, animal welfare, the environment, our NHS and our SMEs. It is a solid first step into the world for global Britain. I will be pleased to support it tonight.