Published — 13 August, 2020

Trade Bill – NC4 & 11

Thank you for contacting me regarding New Clauses 4 and 11 and the Trade Bill.

I do appreciate your strength of feeling about this Clause and I agree with you about the importance of effective Parliamentary scrutiny.  However, I do not believe that the provisions outlined in New Clauses 4 and 11 are 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.  These agreements also hold the existing food standards legislated by the EU, which have now been ratified as UK law.

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.

Regular updates are provided to Parliament on the progress of negotiations and I know that my Ministerial colleagues at the Department for International Trade will also be engaging closely with the International Trade Committee and the Lords International Agreements Committee as negotiations progress.

It is important to note too that all treaties requiring ratification are subject to the scrutiny procedures laid out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.  The Government has also made repeatedly clear that where necessary it will bring forward primary legislation to implement new free trade agreements, which will be debated and scrutinised by Parliament in the usual way.

Overall, I believe this approach strikes an appropriate balance.  It respects the UK constitution, ensuring that the Government can negotiate in the best interests of the UK, while making sure that Parliament has the information it needs to effectively scrutinise and lend its expertise to trade policy.

I hope this response has provided a measure of clarity and reassurance.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.