Trade Bill

I thought it would be helpful to set out my thinking regarding New Clause 4 to the Trade Bill.

I agree with about the importance of effective Parliamentary scrutiny; however, it is my view that the provisions outlined in New Clause 4 are not necessary.

At its core, the Trade Bill is a continuity Bill. It cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements with countries such as the US. Instead it can only be used to transition the free trade agreements that the UK has been party to through EU membership. All these agreements have already been subject to scrutiny as underlying EU agreements, through the European Scrutiny Committee process or equivalent.

Regarding future trade agreements, public consultations have and will continue to be held prior to negotiations to inform the Government's approach. Ministers have also published their negotiating objectives prior to the start of trade talks and held open briefings for MPs and Peers, for example at the launch of talks with the US and Japan.

Regular updates are provided to Parliament on the progress of negotiations too and I know that the International Trade Committee and the Lords International Agreements Committee will ensure  my Ministerial colleagues at the Department for International Trade co -operate, consult and are scrutinised closely  as negotiations progress

In many cases primary legislation is required to implement new free trade agreements, which will be debated and scrutinised by Parliament in the usual way. Furthermore, any Treaty cannot be ratified by the Government unless it is laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days and the House of Commons does not object to its ratification. Therefore, the House of Commons has a veto over the ratification of treaties.

I have also continued to receive correspondence on food standards. Ministers have consistently stated that this UK Government will not compromise on our standards. The manifesto was clear that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards and we remain firmly committed to upholding them outside the EU. The EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book and so they will be embodied in UK law.

These import standards include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products and set out that no products, other than potable water, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcases. Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before this Parliament.

The UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. These are independent agencies and provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments. They will continue to do so in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards. Decisions on these standards are a matter for the UK and will be made separately from any trade agreement.

I fully support and will not compromise our  world-leading food, health and animal welfare standards and  I will not  support any measure which lowers our standards as we negotiate new trade deals.

You can read correspondence I have received from the Government and the Food Standards Agency on this topic below.

Finally, with regards to the NHS and future trade deals, I cherish our National Health Service and the role it plays in ensuring that no-one is denied medical treatment because they cannot afford it. The Government has been repeatedly clear that our NHS will never be on the table in any trade agreements, a position I fully support. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table, and nor will the services the NHS provides. Unfortunately the amendments and new clauses proposed would not have increased protection for the NHS given the existing government guarantees, and were more aimed at party political point scoring.

 

 

Attachments

Attachment Size
Food Standards Agency.pdf 217.32 KB
Secretary of State for International Trade.pdf 136.16 KB
DIT and DEFRA Letter to all MPs on formation of trade and agri commission dear colleague (1).pdf 141.78 KB
Trade and Standards Commission announcement.pdf 140.15 KB