International disputes etc

Part of Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 30 Ionawr 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy) 4:00, 30 Ionawr 2018

I rise to speak to amendments 111 to 114 in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife. I am aware this is a framework Bill, but the clause is particularly short and skeletal. It would have benefited from being a bit longer and fleshed out just slightly, because then the Government could have explained more adequately what they are talking about.

Amendment 111 deals with an issue raised with us by the Law Society of Scotland, which said:

“Clause 15(1)(b) makes reference to international law but it is not clear what is meant by this. It would be helpful were the Minister to explain precisely the circumstances in which the Government would need to deal with a dispute by varying the import duty.”

If would be useful if the Minister, either in summing up or at a later point, could provide a bit of clarity. Amendment 111 would ask the Secretary of State to come back with regulations defining what “international law” is for the purposes of the clause. As has been stated, if the Law Society of Scotland does not think that is clear, perhaps it needs a bit more fleshing out.

Amendment 112 suggests to the Minister what he might mean by “international law.” We tabled the amendment to see if that is what the Government mean. If they do, perhaps they will accept it.

Amendment 113 attempts to do something similar, but we are giving the Government a little more time in which to define what they mean by “international law” in the clause. We ask them to come back within three months of the passing of the Bill, making clear what the relevant international law authorising the exercise of powers would be and the circumstances in which they consider it appropriate to deal with a dispute by varying the amount of import duty. It may be that the Government intend to return to that later anyway but, if they were to accept any of the amendments, they will make their intentions clear at this point.

Amendment 114 has a slightly different purpose: to increase the accountability of Government. The Government have the power on international disputes and the Secretary of State will make regulations in relation to that through the clause, but there does not seem to be any accountability to Parliament about regulations or changes, or ways in which they will deal with international disputes. There seems to be no feedback mechanism to allow Parliament to ensure that the Minister makes the correct decisions or to scrutinise those decisions adequately.

In amendment 114, we have asked the Secretary of State to lay before the House of Commons an annual report on the exercise of these powers, making clear the circumstances in which they have used them, which matters were in dispute and which was the relevant international law in deciding the changes.

Now may not be the time to say this, but I will just make my intentions clear. Depending on what the Minister says about his intentions, it may be that we do not need to press amendments 111 to 113. I would very much like to press amendment 114 when we come to that stage, but on the other three I will wait to see what the Minister says.