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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, December 17, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 17 December 2020 [Draft]

Agenda: Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, First Minister’s Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Decision Time


Contents


Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

We begin today’s business with consideration of legislative consent motion S5M-23736, in the name of Ivan McKee, on the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the relevant provisions of the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 15 December 2020, which relate to the disclosure of information by authorities other than Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or alter the executive functions of the Scottish Ministers, should be considered by the UK Parliament.—[Ivan McKee.]

The Presiding Officer

Mr Finnie wishes to speak against the motion.

12:01  

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

The Scottish Greens opposed the Trade Bill, one of the United Kingdom Government’s flagship Brexit bills, because it should have marked a change in approach, empowering the UK Parliament, the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and the Northern Ireland Assembly and giving democratic oversight of all future trade arrangements. However, the bill does none of that and will mean that trade negotiations continue to escape parliamentary scrutiny.

This emergency bill was introduced on Tuesday and will be passed by Thursday afternoon—members of the Scottish Parliament have been given less than a day to read the legislative consent memorandum. There has been no committee scrutiny and only 20 minutes have been set aside for a debate.

None of those comments is a criticism of you, Presiding Officer, or the Scottish Government. However, the process is a pathetic parody of scrutiny and disrespects our parliamentary process.

Conservative MSPs regularly demand additional scrutiny measures—they are often right to do so and are often supported in that by the Scottish Greens. However, we can see now how a Conservative Government works in practice. The Conservatives have brought about a crisis of their own making and have zero respect for the role of the Scottish Parliament in holding power to account.

The emergency bill was introduced to address a potential crisis of the UK Government’s making. We are on a cliff edge because of the UK Government’s failure to negotiate its supposedly oven-ready deal. It is worth remembering that we are being asked to approve an LCM from a UK Government that will ignore legislative consent decisions, not only here but in Wales and Northern Ireland, and will force through its wrecking ball of an internal market bill. Yet again, the UK Government is confirming that it has nothing but contempt for Scottish democracy.

The Scottish Greens will not oppose the LCM today because it is needed, but it is important that those particular concerns are put on record.

12:03  

The Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation (Ivan McKee)

The Minister of State for Trade Policy wrote to me yesterday to confirm that the UK Government had introduced the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill on 15 December to be debated in the House of Commons on 16 December before being sent to the House of Lords today to complete its parliamentary process.

The minister explained that the provisions of the bill, which allow for the collection and sharing of trade-related data, had been lifted from the Trade Bill, to which the Scottish Parliament gave its consent on 8 October. The Trade Bill is unlikely to receive royal assent this year, so the UK Government has introduced standalone legislation, replicating the existing data-sharing provisions, to give it the powers to manage any friction that arises at the end of the transition period. The scramble to make that last-minute change is just one more example of the unnecessary upheaval caused by the UK Government’s disorderly approach to Brexit. On that point, I agree with Mr Finnie.

Despite all that, the Scottish Government legislative consent memorandum lodged this morning sets out why we are recommending that the Scottish Parliament gives legislative consent to those parts of the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, where that is required.

The bill addresses matters on which we have sought previously through the Trade Bill to protect devolved interests; it allows the Scottish Government access to trade flow data, which will help us understand better what Scotland is exporting and allow us to better target support for sectors and businesses to meet our export growth objectives, as outlined in our export growth plan “A Trading Nation”.

Unlike the Trade Bill, the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill provides some specific authority for the disclosure of trade-related information to the devolved authorities. The Scottish Government had asked that an amendment along those lines be made to the Trade Bill, and the UK Government has committed to amend the bill in that way before it completes its parliamentary process.

The Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill is a temporary fix, and it contains a sunset clause to ensure that its provisions will expire when the data-sharing clauses in the Trade Bill come into force. The UK Government has made certain commitments in relation to how the data-sharing provisions in the Trade Bill will work in practice, and those commitments have been repeated in terms of this bill. The UK Government will consult the devolved Administrations before devolved bodies are added to the list of authorities that can share data, and it will share analysis of the data that is collected by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

I apologise that the LCM has not followed standard procedures, but that has not been of our choice or our doing. The bill offers the opportunity to resolve previous difficulties that we have had in obtaining trade information and with the accuracy of the UK modelling of Scottish data.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you, Mr McKee. Because of the urgent nature of the LCM, we will go straight to the question. The question is, that motion S5M-23736, in the name of Ivan McKee, on the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees that the relevant provisions of the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 15 December 2020, which relate to the disclosure of information by authorities other than Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or alter the executive functions of the Scottish Ministers, should be considered by the UK Parliament.

The Presiding Officer

I suspend proceedings until 12:20, when we will resume with First Minister’s questions.

12:06 Meeting suspended.  12:20 On resuming—