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Anne-Marie Trevelyan accused of disrespecting Parliament on UK-Australia trade deal

16 June 2022

The International Trade Committee accuses the Secretary of State for International Trade of disrespecting both the Speaker of the House of Commons and Parliament.

The Government has today laid the UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) before Parliament, triggering a period of scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRaG).

When the Government brings the agreement to Parliament, MPs have 21 sitting days in which to consider the advantages and downsides of the FTA and potentially delay ratifying the deal. MPs had called for the Government to ensure that the Committee would be able to publish its report on the deal before this, to inform debate in the Commons.

In a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on 3 December 2021, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan stated that the Government wished “to ensure that there is sufficient time for the relevant Select Committees to produce reports, should they wish, ahead of CRaG”.

Committee Chair Angus Brendan MacNeil warned International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan in January of the need for sufficient time to take public evidence on the FTA, enabling the production of a report which could be the basis for parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s plans.

The Chair today writes to the Secretary of State registering the Committee’s deep frustration over the Government’s approach to scrutiny of this FTA.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Chair of the International Trade Committee, said:

“Bringing forward the Australia trade agreement to Parliament now, the Secretary of State breaks an explicit commitment given to the Speaker of the House that we would have time to publish our report first. To so frivolously break this promise sets a dangerous precedent for future agreements, and demonstrates how little this Government respects Parliament.

“The Secretary of State asserted that there would be sufficient time for this Committee to produce a report on a trade deal with one of our most important allies, enabling proper, informed scrutiny of the deal by our colleagues across the House of Commons.

“That assertion, made to the Speaker of the House of Commons, has now been proved to be false. Parliamentary scrutiny has been hobbled, setting an outrageous precedent for future scrutiny of trade deals with other countries, and calling into question what trust Members can put in assurances given by the Government to Parliament.

“It’s perplexing that the UK Government is rushing scrutiny on this when the Australian Government is taking its time. In effect, nothing will happen until both sides agree, so they should just take their foot off the gas and do this properly.”

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