Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 37, October 3, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Trade Bill 2019-21

The Resistance to the Trade Bill Continues

The Trade Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords [1] on September 8 and the first sitting of the Committee to consider the Bill and any amendments took place on September 29. During this period, the huge resistance to the Bill since it was tabled in the House of Commons [2] has continued now that it is in the Lords, with hundreds of thousands of people signing further petitions [3] and people sending hundreds of emails to Members of the Lords. This resistance against the rule by the executive to enable international trade deals that dictate social conditions to the people at home and abroad from food standards, to working conditions, and to the provision of healthcare, shows that the people will never accept this direction for the economy and society - a direction that the financial oligarchy and global monopolies and their representatives in Parliament want to impose.

According to the Parliamentary report [4]:

"Members of the Lords discussed the key principles and purpose of the Trade Bill during second reading on Tuesday 8 September.

"This bill provides the key measures required as the government develops its trade policy for the UK now it has left the European Union.

"Members discussed the key areas of the bill and raised concerns about protections for environmental obligations, animal welfare, food standards and the principle that the NHS is universal and free at the point of need. Members also pressed the government on Parliament's opportunity to scrutinise future trade negotiations and the involvement of the devolved administrations."

Moving the Trade Bill for the government, Lord Grimstone of Boscobel tried to deflect the resistance to the Bill by claiming that the Bill was just a "continuity" Bill and that "the NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic" and that "food imported into or produced in the UK will always be safe". But then he went on to give the government's position of agreeing to the provision that allows the monopolies in Britain and internationally to do just that at home and abroad, when he said that: "the Bill allows the UK to implement our obligations under the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, or GPA, once we accede as an independent party. As noble Lords will be aware, the GPA is an agreement seeking to mutually open up government procurement markets among its 20 parties. Acceding to the GPA in our own right will guarantee British businesses continued access to this £1.3 trillion a year market."

Replying to the government, Lord Stevenson of Blacomara (Labour) said that: "unless we amend the Bill, Ministers will be free to negotiate future trade deals using archaic royal prerogative powers, almost entirely avoiding accountability to Parliament. No other major trading country actively prevents its elected representatives having a say in shaping, reviewing and agreeing its trade policies, and there is no other area of public policy in the UK which is off limits in the way that trade will be to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This is not acceptable."

Later in the debate, Baroness Tongue (Non Affiliated) said she wanted to ask questions about the continuity agreements and the old agreements made in 1995 between the EU and other countries. She said:

"Israel in particular springs to mind. I have been told, after Questions to the Government, that the terms of the old EU association agreements have been adopted in the new agreement between the UK and Israel. This trade agreement was signed as long ago as August 2019 with, as far as I know, no parliamentary scrutiny at all. The terms of the new agreement, as in the old one, include Israel's commitment to observing human rights and democratic principles, and adopt, 'as a main objective, the encouragement of regional cooperation with a view to the consolidation of peaceful coexistence and economic and political stability.'

"The Government of Israel allow the constant humiliation and persecution of the Palestinian people under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Land is stolen, crops are destroyed, water is restricted and almost always polluted, and electricity is rationed to a few meagre hours a day. Children are harassed and badly treated in prison, and many have been killed; in fact 3,000 children have been killed in the last 17 years. Homes are demolished and families made homeless. I could go on and on, as noble Lords know. Is this Israel's adherence to the terms of the new trade agreement? Is this how it respects human rights? We can no longer fall back on the European Union for a decision-not that it ever took a lot of action. The monitoring of the terms of the agreement is now our responsibility and ours alone. Will the Minister tell the House how this monitoring is to be done?"

Looking further across the world, she raised, among other countries, Saudi Arabia: "I remind the Government of the pledge in the Export Control Act, passed in 2002, not to sell arms to countries that would use them for internal repression or external aggression. Those are also fine words. On this and other issues, when is our country going to practise what it preaches?"

Indeed Baroness Tongue was not alone in challenging the government, and the tenor to this debate reflects that the people are not going to accept the warmongering anti-social policies of the British government imposed by executive dictate.

The Lords itself following this debate also defeated the government with an amendment to the Agriculture Bill requiring food products imported under future trade deals to meet or exceed domestic standards, to prevent farmers in Britain from being undermined.

It was the second defeat for ministers in Tuesday's report stage debate on the legislation, as the Lords earlier backed a move demanding a ban on the use of pesticides near homes and public buildings or spaces, such as schools and hospitals.

This further confirms that the mood in the country is that people are speaking out on these questions and that a new human-centred anti-war direction is needed in international relations and trade. The resistance of the people to the Trade Bill shows that the fight is on to limit the power of the global monopolies to impose trade agreements on society and that the issue is that the people themselves should decide these vital questions.

A day of action by Global Justice and others is being held on October 24. See:


[1] UK Parliament - Second Reading Lords
The protocol states that the "Second reading is the first opportunity for members of the Lords to debate the key principles and main purpose of a bill and to flag up any concerns or specific areas where they think amendments (changes) are needed."

[2] The Necessity to Limit the Power of the Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society

The Necessity for Trade on an Equal Basis and for Mutual Benefit, Where the People Decide

[3] KEEP TRUMP AWAY FROM OUR NHS: Ten ways to protect the NHS from trade deals

[4] UK Parliament - Lords Debates Trade Bill, 9 September 2020


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