Part of Trade Bill – in the House of Commons – 17 July 2018
Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South
It is a pleasure to follow the Minister and to contribute to the Report stage of this important Bill.
I rise to propose amendment 80, in my name and that of my hon. Friends, on the Trade Remedies Authority, and to speak to the other clauses and amendments in this group. Labour supports new clause 5 and our own amendment 5 on the implementation of a customs union with the EU. Labour’s policy is for a new customs union with the EU to protect jobs and the economy, and to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. We will also be supporting new clause 18, as it keeps open the possibility of a customs union with the EU.
My Labour colleagues and I tabled amendment 5, which requires that any international trade agreement must not stop the UK participating in a customs union with the EU. This is in line with our party’s policy to negotiate a new customs union with the EU. As the Bill deals with international trade agreements, we wish to ensure that no other trade agreements impede on the UK’s capacity to enter into such a new customs union with the EU.
On new clause 18, as I have said, Labour believes that the only way to deliver frictionless trade and to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland is to negotiate a comprehensive customs union with the EU. The Chequers White Paper published by the Government put forward a different proposal. We think that the so-called “facilitated customs arrangement” is unnegotiable, undeliverable and unworkable, but it at least accepts the need for frictionless trade and to prevent a customs border between the UK and the EU.
We understand that Government Members want to give their Prime Minister a chance to try to negotiate that, but if and when the Government prove that they cannot negotiate the unnegotiable, it is important that we take the obvious path to achieving frictionless trade—that is, a customs union. The Government should do as we have done and listen to the business community on this point. That is what new clause 18 will achieve. Although Labour thinks that the Government should not waste time on the facilitated customs arrangement, we will support the amendment. We will also support new clause 17, which deals with UK participation in the European medicines regulatory network.
I turn to the Trade Remedies Authority and amendment 80 in my name and that of my hon. Friends, and amendment 22. The Government made no major improvements to the Bill with regards to the Trade Remedies Authority, despite the unanimous criticism that was presented by business, trade unions and experts in the Bill Committee. Gareth Stace of UK Steel warned us:
“If we get this…wrong, we become the dumping ground—not just in Europe, but for the rest of the world.”––[Official Report, Trade Bill Committee, 23 January 2018;
c. 66, Q127.]
The Trade Bill sets up the Trade Remedies Authority and I am afraid that the Government have got it wrong.
At the time, we tabled amendments aiming to establish robust procedures for appointing non-executive members of the Trade Remedies Authority and to make it answerable to Parliament. Most importantly, we tabled an amendment seeking to ensure that the Trade Remedies Authority includes in its non-executive members representatives of producers, trade unions and each of the devolved Administrations. We therefore support the principle of amendment 22, as it calls for representatives of UK manufacturing sectors and trade unions to be included in the corporate governance of the TRA. It is a shame that the amendment has omitted representation of the devolved Administrations on the TRA board. That is why we have tabled amendment 80, which would have representatives of producers, trade unions and each of the devolved Administrations included among the non-executive members of the Trade Remedies Authority.
We also welcome amendment 30 in the name of Stewart Hosie, which calls for Scottish and Welsh Ministers to give their consent to the appointment of one non-executive member to the TRA from each devolved nation. We regret that there is no mention of Northern Ireland in the amendment, and we believe that the amendment’s purpose is also served by our amendment 80.
Finally, we support the Government’s new schedule 1, allowing them to move staff from the DIT to the TRA.