Trade Bill passes
The Trade Bill that I voted for, and which was passed by Parliament on Monday 20th July, was a continuity bill that rolled over our existing trade arrangements now the we have left the European Union.
This bill cannot be used to implement future trade deals, and it has no role in the content of future trade deals. Further, amendments to bills must be relevant to the law that they are seeking to amend, and must have no negative impact on the implementation of that law.
Over 50 amendments to the Bill were proposed - I voted against those that I believe had no merit when considered against the explicit role of this Bill.
Scrutiny of trade deals (NC4)
With regard to parliamentary oversight of trade deals, something that NC4 claimed to address, I cannot see that this amendment was useful or necessary. Parliament already has, and will retain, the right to block any treaty from being ratified. This is done through the CRAG process that was introduced by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.
Trade deals themselves cannot change UK law. Any changes would require domestic implementation legislation, and Parliament retains the right to reject this. By blocking this legislation, should it be required, Parliament can also block ratification of the treaty. This is in line with other country’s systems, such as is the case in Canada. CRAG goes further than countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where Parliament cannot directly block ratification of a trade treaty.
There are also significant opportunities for public scrutiny of trade deals. The Department for International Trade regularly publishes its negotiating objectives on its website, and provides updates to the House of Commons on the progress of negotiations. The Government has committed that a report be drafted by the relevant committee, as well as time for a debate, should it be requested by that committee, before ratification takes place to allow for independent scrutiny.
Agriculture and food standards (NC11)
The manifesto that I was elected on less than 8 months ago, and that the Government was elected on, is clear that in all our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
I am proud to represent a constituency with a significant farming community, and I know that there has recently been some misinformation circulating which has caused some concern. I would like to address this directly.
There is no threat to UK farmers from the Trade Bill - nor is there any threat to consumers of lower food standards.
We remain firmly committed to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards, and the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book.
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 for the decontamination of poultry carcasses. It is also the case that all imports must meet our strict food safety standards.
Decisions on these standards are a matter for the UK, and will be made separately from any trade agreement. That means that Parliament retains control over these standards, and any attempt to lower them would be subject to democratic approval in the House of Commons.
As a mother of three young children, and with members of my family working in the NHS, I know just how valued our NHS is. The principle that it is free at the point of use and available to all those in need is something that we should all be proud of and is something that must be protected for future generations.
Let me be absolutely clear: the NHS is not on the table in any trade negotiations. The NHS will never be on the table in any trade negotiations.That is why I fully support the Government's commitment to protect the NHS from all trade deals, whether they are with the USA or any other country.
The Trade Bill that I voted to pass on Monday had nothing to do with future trade deals or the NHS. It explicitly related only to trade deals that the UK had been part of by virtue of our former membership of the EU. That means that the provisions of this bill can only be applied to trade deals that are currently in place.
The NC17 amendment that was put forward was intended to create misleading headlines and obscure the truth about the fact the NHS is already protected in our negotiations.
Our detailed negotiating objectives that were published earlier this year clearly state that this includes:
- protecting the UK's right to regulate public services, including the NHS
- maintaining the right to regulate investment in the national interest and continuing to protect the NHS from overseas control
- ensuring patent provisions do not lead to increased medicines prices for the NHS
- making sure that Government Procurement maintains existing protections for NHS health services.
It is clear then that the NHS is explicitly not on the table in any trade negotiations:
- nor is the price the NHS pays for medicines
- nor are the services that the NHS provides to its patients.
My role in Parliament
My role in Parliament is to make sure that the legislation we pass is in the best form possible to achieve the purpose of that legislation. It is not to make way for the inclusion of party political points designed to aid the generation of headlines and social media hashtags.
I am committed to protecting our NHS, maintaining our high standards in food safety and animal welfare, supporting British farmers, and delivering new opportunities for trade and investment. I will be supporting the Government in these objectives on behalf of my constituents, but I will not vote for amendments that are designed to distract from the substance of a Bill or that have a negative impact on the implementation of a bill.
I voted for the Trade Bill because it will ensure that the UK can benefit from the continuation of our existing trade deals, and the maintenance of our high regulatory import standards now that we have left the EU.