International Woman's Day, Lord Taylor of Warwick

Trade Bill

Lord Taylor of Warwick’s speech in the House of Lords, 8th September 2020

My Lords, I welcome the Minister; I am sure he will continue to bring much experience and expertise to his role. I also welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn and thank him for his excellent maiden speech.

For Britain, trade must never fade. For centuries we have been an international trading nation but, after 47 years in the European Union, Brexit has once again given Britain the power to make trade agreements for itself.

Trade is not just about money and finance. International trade is an agent for peace. There are many examples in the Bible, for instance where the Israelites made a treaty with the Phoenicians. They organised merchant trading ships which travelled so far that some of their round trips took as long as three years. These not only resulted in great wealth but brought peace to what was then the known world.

I am delighted that the Government have already concluded 20 continuity trade agreements with 48 countries, which accounted for £110 billion of UK trade in 2018. This represented 74% of the trade with nations with which we were seeking continuity before leaving the EU. As someone of Caribbean heritage, I am delighted that this includes the CARIFORUM trade bloc, of which my parents’ birth land of Jamaica is a member. I was increasingly concerned that our preoccupation with the EU countries for more than four decades was overshadowing our close historical, religious, royal and cultural ties with the Commonwealth. Now that the news cycle is more centred on black and other ethnic minorities—at least for the time being— I am glad that Brexit can make the Commonwealth family even stronger.

At present, Parliament’s role in the trade agreement process is defined by Part 2 of what is known as the CRaG Act 2010. The CRaG Act process has been described as inadequate and unfit for purpose by no less than four senior parliamentary committees. We should remember that, when the Act was passed, the UK did not make trade agreements by and for itself. Scrutiny of such agreements fell within the scope of the European Union. Will the Minister recognise that, since things have changed and we are no longer part of the EU, it now has to be in our interests for the UK Parliament to be given greater powers to scrutinise future trade agreements? Scrutinise does not mean mutiny or interference, but oversight in order to make the whole better.

I acknowledge that the Trade Bill establishes a new Trade Remedies Authority. I know that two senior executives have resigned in recent months, but I wish this new body well.

I welcome this Bill because, crucially, it enables the UK to implement in domestic law obligations that the UK signs with countries which have had existing agreements with the EU.

Covid-19 has put great financial strains on this nation, so rebuilding our economy is vital. It is through trade that an even greater Britain will emerge from the economic shade.