Trade Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendments to ensure trade deals meet standards on climate, environment, food and animal welfare

On 1st October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Trade Bill in Committee. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in support of amendments to the Bill to ensure that future trade agreements are fully compliant with international environmental obligations, and meet standards on animal welfare and food safety.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: I plan to speak mainly on Amendment 12, but I also support Amendment 40 and, particularly, Amendment 69 in this group [texts below]. Leaving the European Union should not mean leaving our international obligations. Recognition of those conventions mentioned under Amendment 12 is, one would imagine, already accounted for in the existing trade agreements due to be transposed into UK law as a result of this Bill. However, without this amendment, these remain an expectation not an assurance.

I am pleased by recent statements from the Prime Minister and the seriousness of this Government in attempting to deal with the climate crisis. Furthermore, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the Government or their existing trading partners in intending to abide by our international environmental obligations. Only by omission of any explicit reference to our environmental obligations have doubts been raised.

The UK has historically taken international law and its international obligations seriously. However, what many thought was our unshakeable observance of international commitments has in recent weeks been undermined, as has been shown by the EU starting legal action against the UK over the Brexit deal in the past few hours. Amendment 12 not only ensures that we remain committed to the path of a more sustainable future, but would re-signal to the wider international community that the UK Parliament remains an institution that takes seriously the obligations of agreements we as a sovereign nation have signed.


As is common, the amendments were withdrawn after debate, but may be returned to at a later stage.

Amendment texts:

LORD GRANTCHESTER

BARONESS HAYMAN

LORD DUNCAN OF SPRINGBANK

LORD OATES

Amendment 12

Page 2, line 23, at end insert—

“(4A) Regulations under subsection (1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not conflict with and are consistent with the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations in international law and as established by but not limited to—

(a) the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

(b) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); and

(c) the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.”

Member’s explanatory statement:  This amendment would ensure that regulations made under the Bill can only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement does not contravene the UK’s environmental obligations.

 

LORD OATES

BARONESS BOYCOTT

LORD DUNCAN OF SPRINGBANK

LORD BROWNE OF LADYTON

Amendment 40

Insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for trade deals: environmental obligations

(1) Regulations under section 2(1) may make provision for the purpose of implementing an international trade agreement only if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not conflict with, and are consistent with, the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations in international law.

(2) Any future international trade agreement not implemented under section 2 shall only be eligible for signature or ratification by the United Kingdom if the provisions of that international trade agreement do not conflict with, and are consistent with, the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations in international law.

(3) Within 12 months of making regulations under section 2(1) or ratifying a future trade agreement, a Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report assessing the impact of regulations or trade agreement on the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations under international law.

(4) Under subsections (1) and (2) the United Kingdom’s environmental obligations under international law include, but are not limited to—

(a) the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change done at New York on 9 May 1992 and Paris Agreement done at Paris on 12 December 2015;

(b) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 1973 (CITES);

(c) the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity done at Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and its other Protocols;

(d) the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982;

(e) the Aarhus Convention 1998;

(f) the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution 1979;

(g) the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) 1992; and

(h) the Basel Convention 1992.”

Member’s explanatory statement: The new Clause ensures that trade agreements cannot be implemented, signed or ratified unless they are consistent with the UK’s environmental obligations under international law.

 

BARONESS MCINTOSH OF PICKERING

BARONESS BROWN OF CAMBRIDGE

Amendment 69

Insert the following new Clause—

“Environmental standards and trade

(1) Regulations may only be made under section 2(1) if conditions A and B are met.

(2) Condition A is that each House of Parliament has approved a motion that—

(a) the relevant trade agreement is consistent with the standards established by primary and subordinate legislation in the United Kingdom regarding—

(i) environmental protections;

(ii) food safety; and

(iii) animal welfare; or

(b) the goods which would be imported through the relevant trade agreement are produced to standards that are equivalent to those of the United Kingdom in the areas listed under paragraph (a)(i) to (iii).

(3) Condition B is that each House of Parliament has approved a motion that the relevant trade agreement does not have the effect of lowering marketing standards for agricultural products below the standards used by the European Union on the day on which the motion is passed.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2)(a)(iii), reference to “animal welfare” includes reference to animal health and hygiene.

(5) In section 8 (the customs tariff) of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, after subsection (5)(e) insert—

“(f) the desirability of maintaining United Kingdom standards of animal welfare, food safety and environmental protection.””