Lords urged to prevent trade deal ‘power grab’ by amending Trade Bill

Wednesday, 30 September, 2020

Campaigners call on peers to force government to listen to parliament on trade deals, to protect food standards and the NHS

As the House of Lords debates the Trade Bill in its Committee Stage on Wednesday, campaigners are urging peers to ensure that parliament has a meaningful say on trade agreements and negotiations.

Both Labour and Lib Dem have put down amendments to the Trade Bill on ‘Parliamentary approval of trade agreements’ which would ensure that parliament approves negotiating objectives, is able to scrutinise progress during negotiations and is guaranteed a vote on the final deal.

The Lords passed a similar amendment in 2019 when the earlier version of the Trade Bill was going through the previous parliament. This comes a week after the Lords passed amendments to the Agriculture Bill to ensure that food imports have to meet UK standards.

Jean Blaylock, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now said:
“People across the country get what is at stake in trade deals - polls show over 80% concerned about food standards, more than 75% worried about the impact on the NHS. And it doesn’t stop there - the impact on climate action, digital rights, use of pesticides and chemicals currently banned in the UK are also profoundly worrying. There is a clear public interest in trade deals being conducted transparently and democratically so that the public knows what is on the table in trade talks. Yet the government insists on secrecy.

“Farmers groups, environmental groups, unions, social justice groups and animal welfare groups are among those who have called for more democratic control of trade deals. Business groups have said the same. Opposition parties have all called for a modern democratic framework for doing trade negotiations. Yet the government doesn’t even want to give parliament a vote. This is a power grab - and parliament has this one more chance to prevent it.

“We’re negotiating trade deals with the US, EU and Japan. Members of Congress in the US, MEPs in Europe and members of the Japanese parliament, the Diet, all get a vote on trade deals. Why don’t MPs in the UK?”
Note to editors

The amendments tabled on this issue are:

  • Amd 35, Lord Purvis of Tweed & Lord Fox: ‘Parliamentary approval of trade agreements’
  • Amd 57, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara & Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: ‘Parliamentary approval of trade agreements
  • Amendments on other issues include:
    • trade policy and implementation: 9,10, 41
    • consistency of trade agreements with other areas of international law and policy including climate and sustainable development: 11, 12, 18, 21, 23, 39, 40, 73
    • food, environmental and animal welfare standards: 20, 23, 25, 54, 56, 67, 69, 74
    • healthcare, NHS and public services: 13, 51, 75
    • investor state dispute settlement (ISDS or ‘corporate courts’): 17, 44, 52
    • data and online, including health data and protection of children online: 16, 34, 71, 72
    • impact assessments, including human rights and equalities: 45, 53
    • government procurement: 1-6

Image: ukhouseoflords/Flickr