A Westminster Hall debate in Parliament yesterday (12 October) discussed parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, a theme which has dominated trade policy discussions for a few months now.
The debate was formally started by Anthony Mangnall MP, who noted early on that there is “genuine cross-party consensus about the need for scrutiny”.
The Conservative MP for Totnes raised the point that had “due process” been given when the free trade agreement was signed with Australia, “Parliament would have been able to debate this issue at length and we could have rooted out some of the issues before we ratified the agreement”.
As reported previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update, international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch had committed herself to parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals shortly after taking office, describing it as “vital”.
MPs had complained that there had not been proper debate and scrutiny on post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand.
Mangnall made a number of key demands:
- A long-term strategy for trade negotiations
- A standard level of human rights clauses in the UK’s trade agreements
- The International Trade Committee should be given the right to publish its report before the start of the 21-day Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRaG) period
- A guarantee that a secretary of state would appear before the committee to discuss an agreement ahead of their publication of any report on it
New minister of state for trade policy, Greg Hands, responded for the government and emphasised that he knew “how important” the committee was but defended the UK’s system of scrutinising international agreements and trade deals.
He said that he appreciated that MPs “want to see more scrutiny and more debate” and promised to look specifically at some of the points that Mangnall had made.
The public bill committee scrutinising the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill met for two sittings throughout the day and heard from a range of stakeholders, particularly trade policy specialists and business association groups.