Speaker to block MP vote on beefing up Trade and Agriculture Commission
The Speaker of the House of Commons is set to block a key vote on beefing up the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) this evening.
Lindsay Hoyle, who is from the Labour Party, is expected to deny MPs the opportunity to support an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have given the TAC a legal responsibility to scrutinise all future trade deals.
The plan will not be confirmed until the debate begins later today, but the problem centres around a procedural technicality.
Any new legislation must be accompanied by a ‘money resolution’, which allows the Government to meet any spending commitments which arise as a result of the Bill.
Ordinarily, the drafting of a money resolution allows for almost all necessary expenditure, but the resolution linked to the Agriculture Bill is narrow, and does not allow for spending on the establishment of a TAC.
The issue has been compounded by the fact that the amendment to beef up the commission has come from the House of Lords, which cannot force the Commons to legislate on money matters – meaning the proposal will not even be debated.
Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s Brexit and international trade director, said: “Frankly, the Speaker’s word is final on this. If the Speaker says the money resolution does not allow for spending, that is the end of the matter.
“That said, the Government could sort this out if it wanted to by moving another money resolution.
“There is a way of getting round this, but it needs the Government to play ball, which obviously they are not going to because they oppose the amendment.”
Though the amendment is unlikely to be voted on this evening, peers are already planning a workaround for when the Bill is sent back to the Lords as part of the ‘ping pong’ process.
There are two possible options on the table – firstly to require the Secretary of State to carry out all the functions of a beefed-up TAC, such as carrying out an independent analysis of trade deals and providing the assessment to Parliament before signing any agreements.
In this case, it may well be that the Secretary of State chooses in future to outsource the responsibilities to a commission.
A second possibility is to water down the amendment by requiring the Secretary of State to consult on setting up a commission with legal responsibilities, as opposed to establishing one.
A debate on Lord Grantchester’s amendment, to require all food imports under future trade deals to meet UK standards, is expected to go ahead in the Commons this evening.
“The Grantchester amendment is now the only amendment on trade and standards, so where MPs feel strongly and they feel the Government has a manifesto commitment it ought to write into law, the Grantchester amendment is the vehicle for doing that now and where the votes will lie,” said Mr von Westenholz.
“I have got no doubt there are some Tory MPs who are seriously thinking about voting for it and demonstrating they support the wider issue.
“Whether there are enough to defeat the Government is a different question, but certainly some are.”
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