Government defeated a second time over trade bill

Andrew Lansley in the House of Lords

Andrew Lansley in the House of Lords - Credit: Parliament Live

The government has been defeated a second time over its post-Brexit trade bill.

The legislation would allow the UK government to forge new agreements with other countries after leaving the EU.

But opponents want to see parliament given a bigger role, with a former Tory minister leading calls for ministers to publish draft negotiating objectives to be approved by MPs each time there is a new agreement.

The Lords backed Andrew Lansley's amendment by 304 to 260 votes, a majority of 44.

It's a second defeat for the government on the legislation in the Lords, meaning it must now return to the House of Commons.

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Proposing his amendment, Lord Lansley said: “The government is now moving ahead with negotiations on new trade deals, not just continuity agreements.

“It does mean that now is the time and this is the legislative opportunity to strengthen parliament’s role.”

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He explained: “What this amendment now does is it ensures that the government consults the devolved administrations and given the breadth of trade issues who could seriously argue they should not and that they take the Commons with them on their objectives?

He said: “We have not had the responsibility for scrutiny of trade agreements for over 40 years. They are a new and substantial responsibility and parliament must have its say.”

He argued the existing scrutiny procedure was “insufficient to carry the weight of the trade deals in prospect and the expectations of public and parliament, so it has to be strengthened".

He added: “This is not a party issue but a parliamentary issue. Give parliament its say.”

We Own It campaigner Johnbosco Nwogbo commented: “It is fantastic to see the House of Lords once again standing up and saying clearly that we must not allow trade deals to be signed in secret. It’s a basic principle of transparency and of democracy that elected representatives should be able to scrutinise and vote on major areas of policy - including international trade agreements. 

“Without this amendment being written into the Bill, we could see our NHS carved up and sold off behind closed doors without parliament or the public knowing about it, and being powerless to stop it. It’s now time for MPs to do the right thing and back this amendment too, so that parliament can ensure that our NHS is not on the table in a trade deal with the USA or any other country.”

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