Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements.
I agree with you on this important issue. Good trade deals are vital for our economy. However, they must not come at the expense of domestic British jobs and business, our farmers and food standards, our ability to protect the NHS, our environmental protections or our principles when it comes to human rights, democratic freedoms and the future of the planet. With the disruption to our trade following the end of the transition period with the EU, though, I worry that the Government will be desperate to do trade deals with other countries at any price. To guard against this, it is vital that MPs have the ability to properly scrutinise the Government’s negotiations and trade agreements.
That is why in July last year I supported an amendment to the Trade Bill on parliamentary approval of trade agreements in the House of Commons. The amendment would have provided for many of the elements of good scrutiny practice that a modern, confident, outward-looking country should have, including: a vote on negotiating mandates; consultation with the devolved Administrations; and a vote on trade deals by both Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, the Government opposed the amendment and it failed to make it into the Bill.
As you know, the House of Lords passed an amendment during its scrutiny of the Trade Bill, which would have again given Parliament a more effective role in scrutinising and approving trade deals. When this amendment was defeated in the House of Commons, the Lords then proposed a further compromise amendment to guarantee Parliament a vote and a say on trade deals. I supported this amendment when the Trade Bill returned to the House of Commons on 9 February 2021. Unfortunately, the Government once again opposed and defeated the effort to provide proper parliamentary oversight of future trade agreement.
I can nevertheless assure you that I remain committed to ensuring that Parliament can properly scrutinise trade negotiations and trade deals and will continue to support efforts to press the Government on this issue.