UK Accession to CPTPP

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 2:13 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment 2:13, 22 Chwefror 2024

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I think the Minister made the point in the Bill Committee on Tuesday that this is not necessarily an under-scrutinised treaty, as it has been the subject of quite a lot of debate; my Committee has certainly taken lots of evidence on it. However, when we left the European Union, one of the big arguments made was that this Parliament would reassert its sovereignty and—in those infamous words—take back control. That means that this House needs to have a strong hand in scrutinising trade agreements.

We hope that there will be many more free trade agreements to come. I know that they are getting harder, but this House none the less needs to develop expertise in scrutinising free trade agreements, so that we can ensure they are genuinely in the national interest. That is why I hope the Government will, within the 21-day CRaG period, find Government time for debate on an amendable motion, to give the House the opportunity to delay ratification, if that is the judgment we all come to. That is the process; we have to test it, use it, and make sure it works.

We have to get much better as a House at navigating the dilemmas of free trade in a world where economic security is a much sharper imperative than before. That means we have to have better debates, but also better numbers. We cannot have a situation where we produce models using very old data—going back to 2017 in the case of the models used for this treaty’s impact assessment —and when the Secretary of State comes to our Committee, she resiles from the models of her own Department. That is not a good way of producing evidence-based policy.

I hope we can have a discussion across the House on how to ensure that the economic models that we use are good. Free trade agreements are choices, and sometimes free trade agreements in one part of the world rule out those in other parts of the world. We have to judge what is in the best interests of the country, and it is difficult to do that if the numbers are flaky.