Trade Bill Report Stage day 1

The Government have put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing – with Amendments 49 and 50 giving it a degree of permanency – and have even seemed to incorporate what we were pushing for, in that it should have its own staff and facilities, but then government Amendment 36 throws all that out. A Secretary of State can ditch the whole thing with a statutory instrument. How is that sticking to a promise about making this a body that can properly do the job?

It is a case of caring very much about climate change, the environment, workers’ rights and the quality of our food

My problem with the Bill is one that I have had for the last two years with this Government – particularly in the last year, when they have kept trying to reduce our democracy. I simply do not understand how a Conservative Government can justify that. If they were sitting on the Opposition Benches at the moment, they would be shouting loudest about how corrupt it all was and how we were trying to take power back for the people, not for politicians, and so on. For me, it is incredibly frustrating constantly to hear and see these attacks on democracy. I do not think that this Government have a clue about it.

We have discussed these issues more than once over the past four years; it is getting quite repetitive. When we in this House amend and improve any legislation, it goes back to the Commons and then of course it is all whipped out or the Bill is delayed for a few years, so in some ways all our work is for nothing. With this Bill, the Government are again trying to bypass scrutiny. Why would they want to do that? Scrutiny helps – it can highlight the problems, as well as improvements – so why anybody would want to do that, I just do not understand. It should be enough, even for the most loyal Conservatives on the Government Benches, to ask, “What on earth we are doing here? Why are we bothering? There is all this hard work from the second Chamber and it comes to nothing.”

The Greens believe that the market and the economy should serve the people, not necessarily politicians or even big business. Therefore, I strongly support Amendment 6. It is a case of caring very much about climate change, the environment, workers’ rights and the quality of our food; I just do not understand why the Government are choosing to fight this. I accept that having a huge majority in the Commons means that they can pretty much do what they like, but why would they? Why not honour some of the promises that they made in the Brexit debate and give power back to the people?

A Secretary of State can ditch the whole thing with a statutory instrument. How is that sticking to a promise about making this a body that can properly do the job?

I support Amendments 7 and 44 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. It is obvious immediately, from the way she laid things out at the very beginning, that the Government have done a little but not enough. It is a pleasure for me to speak in this group and have a tiny part in the Government’s compromise amendments. Although they are welcome, they just do not do the job. Why do they not guarantee the commission its independence? The weakness is exposed when compared with the non-government amendments in this group. While I would like to call a win a win, I do not think we really have a win here. I am worried that this welcome but small compromise will actually create nothing more than a talking shop, which can simply be ignored by the Government.

The Government have put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing, with Amendments 49 and 50, given it a degree of permanency and have even seemed to incorporate what we were pushing for in that it should have its own staff and facilities, but then government Amendment 36 throws all that out. A Secretary of State can ditch the whole thing with a statutory instrument. How is that sticking to a promise about making this a body that can properly do the job?

I hope that the Minister will think again before Third Reading, so that we do not have to compromise endlessly with a body that is too feeble and inconsequential to do the job.

Read the whole debate on Hansard