Post Office Management Culture

Richard Graham Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ian Lavery Portrait Ian Lavery
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I thank the Minister for that intervention, and I agree. I have a lot of time for him. We have had conversations about this matter and many others. As he will notice if he looks in Hansard, I have not been party political. I have said “the Government”. He is correct to point out that there have been Governments of different colours throughout the period.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian Lavery Portrait Ian Lavery
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The hon. Gentleman has just come in, but of course I will.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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The hon. Gentleman is making some very good points, as did the hon. Members for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan) and for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows). All of us who have been in the House for a while share the feelings that all three Members have expressed of horror and great anxiety, given the cases that we are dealing with. However, roughly 3,000 people work for Post Office Ltd, including all those working in Crown post offices, like the one in my constituency of Gloucester. It is important that we try to separate things out in our minds before we know from the inquiry precisely where guilt lies and where charges and prosecutions will come, so that we do not label everybody within Post Office Ltd with the accusations that are rightly being made in the House today.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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Order. Before we proceed, I heard what the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) said, and I heard the Chairman of Ways and Means’ admonition of another hon. Member earlier. The difference in this case is that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) was here for the start of the speech. That said, I personally believe that there is a prerequisite for Members, whenever they can, to be in from the start of a debate and to hear the whole debate.

Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords]

Richard Graham Excerpts
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This deal is thinking about the future. Of course we have a close trading relationship with the European Union, but the fact is that, as a share of global growth, Europe is shrinking and other parts of the world are growing. This is our opportunity to get in early and help shape the rules for this trading bloc.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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The Business Secretary is making a powerful case on why accession to the CPTPP will be transformative for our country in so many ways. She alluded to the importance of business with Malaysia. This is not just about trade; it is also about investment. The importance of Malaysian investment over here is symbolised by Brabazon on the edge of Bristol, and by Battersea power station. Does she agree that all those investments will be much more secure under the umbrella of the first ever trade and investment agreement with Malaysia?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I agree with that statement. I would just like to highlight the significant contribution that our trade envoys, including my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), and for Gloucester (Richard Graham), are making to our debate on trade. They are getting out there, bringing business to the United Kingdom, selling all that is great about our country, and making a valuable contribution to trade policy in the UK, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for all the work they are doing, travelling around the world and banging the drum for British trade.

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Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas
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It would have been an excellent idea if the Secretary of State had published those. Perhaps she might be willing to publish them at the same time as giving us a statement about what exactly is going on in the negotiations with Canada. We will have to use the review of CPTPP in 2026 to try to increase more markedly the benefits of membership for British jobs, British consumers and growth.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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Interestingly, the shadow Minister is trying to have his cake and eat it. He is saying that the Government have made extravagant claims for the importance of CPTPP, while recognising that it will have a useful, modest role. As for the statistics that the Department might produce, does he agree that it would be difficult for the Department to project accurately what might happen over the next 10 years, because a cluster of nations, at least three of them within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, might well apply to join, but we cannot speculate on that in advance? Surely he would agree that the potential of this opportunity represents a decent-sized prize for the UK.

Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas
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All I say to the hon. Gentleman is that I have recognised that there are benefits to accession, which is why we are not seeking to divide the House tonight, and that I will come on to the issue of potential new countries joining CPTPP in a bit.

The temptation for Ministers to exaggerate the significance of what this Bill ushers in—

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Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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I could not agree with my hon. Friend more. That is exactly the reason that we have trade envoys—in his case, he goes to Thailand to enhance the relationship between Thai and UK businesses. It is also for that exact reason that the first line of the gov.uk webpage on CPTPP says: “We will help businesses take advantage of CPTPP. Please keep logging on so you can see how we can help you to take advantage.” Far from stepping back and not helping businesses, we are on the front foot in ensuring that we can support them.

I want to make a couple of points about what I have learned, first on the International Trade Committee and now on the Business and Trade Committee. It is always important for the House to have a say, and to have a debate on the full terms of our free trade agreements. Under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, we have 21 sitting days to be able to debate the CPTPP. The Secretary of State appeared before the Business and Trade Committee last week. I hope that we can have a debate, because it is important for all Members of the House to be able to look at the many benefits that the CPTPP will bring them, and their constituents, producers and consumers, and for those benefits to be highlighted on the Floor of the House. CRaG also provides for a voteable motion, which has not been used since its introduction; and it would be useful to have vocal support for our trade agreements, not least to show our friends and allies, with whom we do these deals, that we are behind them.

Within the Bill, I note the changes to the procurement legislative framework. I commend the fact that it is already building on the excellent work in the Procurement Act 2023, which specifically helps small businesses to take advantage of the agreements we have signed; again, the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Harrow West, could have made reference to that legislation or to the Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023—the list goes on and I could go on to, if he would like me to. Of course, there is also the value placed on intellectual property—setting a minimum standard of protections across patents, geographical indictors, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks and designs, including enforcement mechanisms. Above all, there is a focus not only on how to remove tariffs, but on how to remove non-tariff and technical barriers to trade. The creation of conformity assessment procedures also ensures that we can help businesses from every walk of life to take advantage of the CPTPP—this fastest growing region.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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My hon. Friend has made a number of absolutely correct statements about the benefits of the agreement. To bring it alive in the specific context of our first ever trade and investment agreement, with Malaysia: because we will be working closely with their ministries, we will see opportunities for joint marketing in ways that we have not often seen around the world. It is worth remembering that our investments over there, which are considerable, generate dividends back to this country. That is as important as attracting inward investment here, which, of course, give them dividends back there. Does my hon. Friend agree that the opportunities in the Bill are there for everyone to recognise; that it is helpful that the Labour party finally agrees that free trade agreements, and this particular agreement, are a positive step forward for the country; and that we should all recognise the opportunities that come after the agreement, and mobilise our chambers of commerce and our small and medium-sized enterprises to take advantage of them?

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to get my breath back and for the points that he made. I hope SNP Members are listening, because they could make it a hat-trick and support their first international free trade agreement while they are at it. Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: we must recognise both the export value and the import impact. We must also recognise, as was shown clearly through the pandemic, that businesses that have international markets are more resilient to shocks and can take further advantages of the deals that we are putting in front of them. The more that we can get trade deals in front of small businesses, encouraging them to seek out new markets, the more we can safeguard them for a long-term future.

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Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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As ever, my colleague on the Business and Trade Committee has steered me back on to the right path. Of course there is enormous value within the legal and financial sectors—the service economy—in which 80% of our economy is based. We must make sure that we are taking full advantage of the deal. We need to get those businesses out there, to look at where we can change international regulation, and to see that there is more mutual co-operation. My hon. Friend is right and has been a strong advocate of those points over the past few months on the Select Committee.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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On service exports, my hon. Friend will know, as do many colleagues on the Conservative Benches, that education is one of our major service exports. We have five universities operating in Malaysia. We have a number of schools operating around south-east Asia and in all the other nations involved in the trans-Pacific partnership. All those will benefit from this agreement. Does he see that, as perhaps other nations in ASEAN pick up the opportunity of TPP, there will be further education opportunities?

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
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Education is one of the jewels in our crown of export opportunities. When we look at what has been created by UK schools in the far east, along with universities that are now exploring those routes, we see that there is an enormous amount of ground to cover and opportunity for those businesses to take advantage of. We are looking to access a region that is worth about £12 trillion, and which is closing in on well over 50% of world trade. This vibrant economic region offers us not just the opportunity, but the ability to create new industries and to be at the forefront of advanced manufacturing—of pharmaceuticals, genomics, quantum and photonics. Whatever we might think, we can take advantage of these deals. Furthermore, the removal of tariffs and technical boundaries will only benefit those services, businesses and advanced manufacturing areas.

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Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson
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The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. One of the ironies here is that because our borders will no longer be protected by food import checks at Rotterdam, there has basically been a free-for-all in terms of the standard of products that can come in. I welcome the fact that there will be checks in order to protect our biosphere, but that comes at a financial cost that will hit consumers hard at a time when food inflation remains high and we are in the middle of a cost of living crisis. That is just one example of the red tape that we were told would be cut by Brexit not being cut sideways; it has been cut lengthways, creating far more of the stuff.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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Moving away from eggs, which I do not think will be the major export from Malaysia or other far-eastern members of the trans-Pacific partnership, let us look at the opportunities for Scotland. In the last year or so there have been bumper sales of Scottish whisky. Whisky sales in Singapore are up by some £90 million, and in Malaysia they are up over £30 million. The opportunities arising from being able to export tariff-free to Malaysia will mean a substantial increase in our single most important food and beverage export. Does the hon. Member agree that we should not underestimate the opportunities for Scotland in all this?

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson
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My point about eggs—I will stay on this subject for a bit—related to India and Mexico, which are major producers. Of course Scottish MPs are interested in good trade outcomes for Scotland, but we look to trade more than just whisky. While any increase in our share of the international spirits market is welcome, it would have done us much more good if the Government with control over domestic duties had not whacked an 11.1% increase in duty on that product last year. I say as gently as I can to the hon. Member that it is not just tariffs that are significant; many jurisdictions take their cue for the taxes levied on a product from the duty set in this country. I contend that we set a very bad example—I hope that he might agree—when whisky is taxed so highly in comparison with other alcohol products in the UK domestic market. [Interruption.] I am sorry; I did not quite catch that. I invite the hon. Member to intervene on me, if he wishes to make a point.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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I was just making the point that taxation raised here is spent on important issues in the United Kingdom. That of course includes, under the Barnett formula, significant subsidies by the English of Scotland.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson
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What a load of absolute codswallop. It may have escaped the hon. Member’s notice that every part of the UK is in deficit. I do not think that a single part of the UK, perhaps not even London or the south-east, raises more in taxation than it receives in public expenditure, so can he please park the patronising trope about England subsidising everywhere else? Scotland creates one of the highest levels of gross value added of any part of the UK outside the vortex of London and the south-east, which suck in every aspect of capital and talent.

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Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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I thought for a moment that the hon. Member was going to verge off into football. I was going to congratulate him on his constituency team, Liverpool, beating Fulham last week. In any case, I thank him. He was recently appointed the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Mexico, which is a really important position. In general, Mexico presents a great opportunity. Our rolled-over trade deal with Mexico dates from a long time ago—about 2002-03.

The hon. Member will know that the CPTPP includes a comprehensive chapter on labour, with binding provisions on fundamental labour rights, minimum wage, hours of work and health and safety. All parties to the CPTPP are members of the ILO, and they are not allowed to derogate from their domestic labour laws to give them an unfair trade advantage. That is how the labour chapter in the CPTPP works. I look forward to discussions with him, and to doing everything we can to work together to boost trade with Mexico.

Before I extoll the benefits of the agreement still further, I will say that it is a pleasure to be back at the Department, and to see the further progress being made tonight towards the UK being the 12th party to the CPTPP. This is a tremendously exciting moment for both the UK and global trade policy—one that the Department and I personally have been building towards for many years. Back in about 2017, one of the earliest decisions in the Department under the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Sir Liam Fox), was to explore accession to the trans-Pacific partnership, as the CPTPP was then known.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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May I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the work that he has done, both on this arrangement in general, and more specifically in promoting our mutual trade and investment agreements with nations in Asia? It is the 67th year of Malaysian independence; this is the first trade and investment agreement that we have ever had with that very encouraging far-eastern nation, with which we can develop a great and stronger relationship. Does he agree?

Horizon: Compensation and Convictions

Richard Graham Excerpts
Monday 8th January 2024

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question and again pay tribute to the work of the advisory board, including the chair Professor Chris Hodges, Professor Richard Moorhead, Lord Arbuthnot and the right hon. Member for North Durham. It has done fantastic work and I hope to attend its meeting on Wednesday, where we will discuss some of these issues. It is a further tragedy, of course, for the bereaved families. I have a family in my constituency in exactly that situation. The same amount of compensation should be made available to the family. I know that that is cold comfort for many people in that situation, but it is the least we can do to ensure that at least some compensation is paid to the family, who will also have been affected by this scandal.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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There is one aspect that has not been touched on yet: the role of the National Federation of SubPostmasters. Mark Baker, a former sub-postmaster, was elected to the executive council in 2001. He later gave written evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in March 2020, stating that the NFSP had

“been aware of the issues with the Horizon system for many years”,

but effectively successive CEOs have been compromised by a grant funding agreement with Post Office Ltd. Will the Minister, whose own determined persistence on this matter I much admire, confirm that the role of the NFSP is being looked at by the Williams inquiry? This should have been the union that spoke up for the sub-postmasters. I suspect that there are many lessons to be learned, as well as finding out who knew what in the NFSP.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I engage with the NFSP, Calum Greenhow and others. I think there is a better relationship now between the network and the NFSP, but it is important that it is a representative relationship. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend raises a very important point. There is nowhere that the statutory inquiry cannot look to identify responsibility. He points it in a certain direction that I am sure it will be aware of, but it may well listen to his comments on the Floor of the House today and look at it as a consequence.

Draft Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Implementation of International Recognition Agreements (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Richard Graham Excerpts
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

General Committees
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Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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On the points made by the hon. Member for Croydon Central about helping to fill gaps in the NHS, the care system and so on, will the Minister clarify and perhaps confirm that the real beneficiaries of the recognition of professional qualifications in relation to the European Free Trade Association are likely to be not doctors and nurses, but financial professionals from the UK working in Liechtenstein, other professionals—engineers and so on—working in Norway, and a broad range of those from Iceland working here and vice versa? This instrument is therefore not really related to the needs of the NHS, but is more about other professional qualifications.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Graham Excerpts
Thursday 29th June 2023

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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Absolutely. Israel is already a really important trading partner, right across the UK, and it will continue to be so. As we negotiate this deal, it is important that we focus on the areas of greatest opportunity. Once the deal is done—of course, this is an upgrade—we will be actively working to make sure that the communications about the benefits of the deal are understood by everybody. We will be working with various bodies and groups, including the devolved Administrations and bodies, to make sure that we take full benefit from these deals. Signing the deal is one thing, but taking and making the best of the opportunities is another—we will be working on that as well.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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6. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the UK’s accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership increases economic opportunities for businesses and consumers.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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The CPTPP will be benefiting every nation and region of our country. In particular, UK firms will enjoy enhanced access to Malaysia for the first time, including a reduction on tariffs on whisky sales to Malaysia of 80% within 10 years, improving prospects for trade and opening up opportunities in an economy worth £330 billion.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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We should all congratulate the Secretary of State and her team on concluding the CPTPP negotiations, and it should be ratified any time now in New Zealand. Of course the most important new element of the trans-Pacific partnership is this first ever free trade agreement with our long-term friend and ally, Malaysia. Whether in cars, cyber, chocolates, vaccines or legal and other services, the opportunities for British exporters are considerable and, of course, the dividends from our investment there, such as the new Smith & Nephew plant, will also help our balance of payments. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that there is a great opportunity for us and Malaysia to work together on spreading the word, through our regional offices, the UK-ASEAN Business Council and every other means possible, to make sure that businesses in both countries are absolutely aware of the opportunities that the deal offers?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He will be pleased to know that Ministers in the Department met their counterpart, the Malaysian export Minister, this very week. A lot is going on between our two countries. The Department works closely with the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and our first bilateral joint economic trade committee with Malaysia is expected later this year. It will help promote the bilateral trade and investment and economic co-operation that he rightly champions as the trade envoy to that country. He will know that I will be signing the CPTPP agreement next month in New Zealand.

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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It should be transparently clear that the UK is conducting trade deals that are in the UK’s economic interests. That is the criterion: we would not do them if they were not in the UK’s interests. We are therefore working really hard, with a particular focus on opportunities for SMEs to trade not only with the EU but right around the world, where there are immense opportunities for further trade. We will continue to pursue opportunities in south Asia, Africa and South America—all over the world—where we have not taken full advantage of those opportunities. This will benefit many SMEs, including food and beverage producers, in the long term.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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Over a third of the value of every Airbus sold in the world comes from the United Kingdom’s aerospace manufacturing—whether it is wings, engines, landing gear or other avionics—but all of the Airbus sales are recorded in international statistics as exports from France because the final take-off is from Toulouse. What can the Department do to try to make sure that the value of these exports, especially to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, is recognised as being partly from the UK?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
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This is a great opportunity to talk about Airbus’s 500-plane deal with Indian airline IndiGo. It is the largest aviation deal in history, and it has been done on our watch. We are providing the certainty that businesses need in order to go out and confidently secure such contracts. A lot of the jobs will be in the UK, but I will take away what my hon. Friend said, because we want to be able to show precisely the level of investment in the UK and the number of jobs that are created by this deal.

Oral Answers to Questions

Richard Graham Excerpts
Thursday 18th May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I am disappointed to hear that from the hon. Lady, because we generally agree on a lot of things. We have no intention of weakening environmental standards through trade agreements; in fact, they are often an opportunity to enhance standards through co-operation. CPTPP prohibits parties from waiving, derogating from or failing to enforce environmental laws in order to encourage trade or investment. I am afraid the reality is the exact opposite of what she says.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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One opportunity from our joining the trans-Pacific partnership is that it gives the UK a say in different chapters of the partnership, including that on the environment, and the ability to work with Malaysia to ensure the sustainability of its palm oil exports, in exactly the same way that we helped Indonesia shape its regulations and processes for exporting timber. Does the Minister agree that the key to all this is engagement? In that context, does he share my strong enthusiasm for a separate free trade agreement with Indonesia, so that we can work together for the huge benefit of both countries?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for the amount of work that he does as a trade envoy. We both met our Indonesian friends this week, and the Minister of State, Department for Business and Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) will be visiting Indonesia shortly, so we are certainly building those relationships. We are always keen to look at future opportunities for trade agreements and, outside trade agreements, at enhancing the relationship through a variety of fora, for the very reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) explains. We look forward to continued engagement with Indonesia.