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Lords examines Trade Bill at third reading

19 January 2021

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The Trade Bill had its third reading, a chance for members to make sure the eventual law is effective, workable and without loopholes, on Monday 18 January. 

Members considered a number of government amendments to clarify provisions of the bill related to devolved administrations and the passing of the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020.

Other issues discussed include the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations on data gathering and the proposed creation of a Trade and Agriculture Commission.

Following the completion of third reading, the bill now returns to the House of Commons for consideration of Lords amendments.

Report stage day three: Wednesday 6 January

Members discussed a range of subjects and asked the government to think again on provision of goods and services in Northern Ireland, child protection online and memberships of a newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission

There were four divisions (votes) on proposed amendments (changes) to the bill.

Maintaining standards

The first vote was on amendment 22, which requires the government to establish a code of practice setting out how, when affected by an international trade agreement, standards would be maintained on food, animal welfare, the environment, human rights, welfare and labour law.

Members voted 290 in favour and 274 against, so the change was made.

Online child protection

The second vote was on amendment 23, which ensures that the UK only becomes a signatory to an international trade agreement if it consistent with existing treaties regarding the protection of children and other vulnerable user groups using the internet.

Members voted 340 in favour and 248 against, so the change was made.

Northern Ireland goods and services

The third vote was on amendment 26, which ensures that no trade agreement is to be ratified if any part prevents unfettered market access for the movement of goods and provision of services between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

Members voted 298 in favour and 252 against, so the change was made.

Trade and Agriculture Commission

The final vote was on amedment 31A, which ensures that persons with expertise in public health and health inequalities be part of the committee sitting in a newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission.

Members voted 285 in favour and 258 against, so the change was made.

Third reading, a chance for members to make sure the eventual law is effective, workable and without loopholes, is yet to be scheduled.

Report stage day two: Tuesday 15 December

Members discussed a range of topics, including equal rights to work for UK and EU citizens in trade services, scrutiny of international trade agreements and the UK's environmental obligations.

There were two divisions (votes) on amendments (changes) to the bill.

Srutiny of agreements

The first vote was on amendment 12, which requires analysis of the domestic legislation to implement a trade agreement, plus a debate on the agreement to take place if sought by a committee of either House.

Members voted 274 for and 209 against, so the change was made.

Investor disputes

The second vote was on amendment 15, which ensures all parties commit to a trade agreement to set up a multilateral investment process to adjudicate on investor disputes.

Members voted 265 for and 269 against, so the change was not made.

Report stage day one: Monday 7 December

Members made changes giving Parliament a bigger say on trade agreements, ensuring trade deals comply with the UK's international human rights obligations, revoking trade deals if UK courts determine a state has committed genocide, and protecting the NHS.

There were four divisions (votes) on amendments (changes) to the bill.

Parliament's approval

The first vote was on amendment 6, which ensures any future negotiating objectives and proposed trade agreements are subject to parliamentary approval.

Members voted 308 for and 261 against, so the change was made.

Human rights

The second vote was on amendment 8, which requires the government to perform a risk assessment on any proposed trade agreement to ensure it complies with the UK's international treaties and other obligations, in particular with regard to human rights.

Members voted 297 for and 221 against, so the change was made.

States committing genocide

The third vote was on amendment 9, which empowers the High Court of England and Wales to revoke bilateral trade agreements if another signatory represents a state which has committed genocide under Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Members voted 287 for and 161 against, so the change was made.

NHS

The fourth vote was on amendment 11, which aims to protect the NHS, health, care or publicly funded data processing services and IT systems from any form of control from outside the UK through trade agreements.

Members voted 232 in favour and 143 against, so the change was made.

Committee stage day six: Thursday 15 October.

Members discussed the involvement of trade unions and other bodies in the Trade Remedies Authority and trade advisory groups, the disclosure of information and more.

Committee stage day five: Tuesday 13 October

Members discussed subjects in relation to future trade deals including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Northern Ireland Protocol and continuation of North-South trade and invalidating agreements with states accused of committing genocide.

Committee stage day four: Thursday 8 October

Members discussed the role of the UK Parliament and the devolved administrations in trade deals and Free Trade Agreements. 

Commitee stage day three: Tuesday 6 October

Members discussed subjects including compensation claims by foreign investors, the UK's international labour law commitments and food safety and production standards.

Commitee stage day two: Thursday 1 October

Members considered a number of topics, including environmental obligations, UK's commitment to standards in food production and parliamentary approval of trade agreements.

Committee stage day one: Tuesday 29 September

Members discussed a range of topics, including environmental protections in procurement contracts, workers’ rights, intellectual property law and the UK’s international human rights commitments.

Second reading: Tuesday 8 September

Members discussed the key areas of the bill and raised concerns about protections for environmental obligations, animal welfare, food standards and the principle that the NHS is universal and free at the point of need. Members also pressed the government on Parliament’s opportunity to scrutinise future trade negotiations and the involvement of the devolved administrations.

Lord Grimstone of Boscobel (Conservative), Minister for Investment, made his maiden speech in the Lords by opening the debate.

Over 70 members took part. Speakers included the first First Minister of Northern Ireland and the first UK Supreme Court Deputy President.

The Bishop of Blackburn made his maiden speech.

Trade Bill

This bill aims to:

  • ensure that the UK can implement procurement obligations in its own right and not as a member state of the EU
  • assist with the implementation of UK trade agreements with partner countries with which the EU has existing trade agreements
  • establish a new body, the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), to deliver the new UK trade remedies framework
  • allow HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to collect information on behalf of the government to confirm the number of exporters of goods and services there are in the UK, and to enable the government to identify those exporters for trade promotion purposes
  • establish a data sharing gateway between HMRC and other public and private bodies.

Further information

Image: Tom Fisk / Pexels