I wish to make only three brief points. First, the House of Commons is the appropriate place to scrutinise the elected Government’s independent trade policy. That is why I am against Lords amendment 1B, because it actually gives powers away from the House of Commons. The amendment requires the House of Lords to give its permission for the elected Government to even have discussions on our future trade policy. I cannot believe that the Labour party’s position is to give the House of Lords a veto on what an elected Government in the House of Commons should or should not be able to do. I wonder sometimes whether this House is having some sort of collective democratic nervous breakdown, because it seems always to want to give its powers away to someone else.
As I said last time, I do not believe that the courts should have a say on the elected Government’s trade policy, either—whether prospectively or retrospectively—or on what we debate in Parliament. When it comes to the issue of genocide, what matters is what we do about credible accusations of genocide. We should not be waiting for judicial confirmation through the Trade Bill. We can assess evidence, assess intelligence and listen to eyewitnesses ourselves. Frankly, if we want to take action in response to the Chinese Communist party’s treatment of the Uyghur people, we should do so. We have given ourselves new powers. But the Trade Bill is not the appropriate place to deal with that issue.
On the impact, we are talking not about stopping trade with China or stopping companies doing trade deals with suppliers in China—the use of sloppy language that fails to differentiate between trade deals and free trade agreements, which are a different legal entity entirely, does not help the quality of the debate—but we do have a perfect right to take into account any state’s behaviour when it comes to a future free trade agreement, and our ability to do so is limited. I campaigned to leave the European Union because I wanted powers brought back from Brussels, but I wanted them brought back to this place, not given straight back to the Executive to exercise them on our behalf. When I was Secretary of State, I wanted to see Parliament given a vote on new trade agreements, as the previous Speaker would have attested. I still believe that that is most appropriate at the beginning, at the setting of the mandate, because if Parliament can agree then on the direction of travel, we are less likely to have the sort of misinformation that we had on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership and the ridiculous scare stories that we heard from the SNP spokesman today. If we do not have the ability to vote at the beginning of the mandate, it makes the CRaG process less credible.
The Government are making a rod for their own back. Today we have an opportunity to give power back to the House of Commons—not the House of Lords, not the courts, not the Executive. We should show a little bit of courage and faith in our own institution.