4.7 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Katy Clark). It is difficult to try to make a speech after the Front-Bench speeches have been made, because many of the points I wanted to make have already been eloquently made.

Prior to this debate, I received a number of e-mails from constituents who are finally becoming aware of the issue of the TTIP, and that is no bad thing. The all-party group, which has been in existence for almost nine months, has held two debates and conducts regular meetings, so at least it is making sure that the issue is debated in a transparent manner in this Parliament. It is important that we discuss such issues as regularly as necessary and that we touch on the serious concerns that have been raised by a number of Members. It is clear that those who have spoken reflect a spectrum of opinion on this very important issue. I might not necessarily agree with everything that has been said by many a Member, but it is important that we have this open debate.

Given the current situation, this is an opportune moment for this second debate. A stock-taking exercise is taking place and there are question marks over the possible threat to the fast-track process, which will come as no surprise to those of us who travelled to Washington in October and early November, where the confidence of the British embassy was not reflected in our discussions with American Congressmen, who were very concerned about signing or agreeing any fast-track procedure prior to the mid-term elections this November. This is, therefore, an opportunity for us as parliamentarians to take stock as well.

We also need to be aware of the need to maintain momentum, because I am concerned at the number of scare stories I read in the press and certainly in my e-mail inbox. We need to address them, because it is important to make sure that our discussion is not just open, but honest. One of the scare stories I received in an e-mail said that the treaty would create no jobs or

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economic development, which is a risible claim. We have received evidence from the TUC, the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses, all of which highlight the treaty’s potential. More importantly, individual companies, including small businesses and farming unions in Wales, see the real opportunities for job creation and economic benefit from such a treaty. It is therefore important, whatever the views of Members, that we highlight the fact that the potential for job creation is very real.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who is no longer in his place, raised the issue of unfair competition from America in food production, which might arise not only from genetically modified and synthetic hormones, but from lower levels of animal welfare. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) agrees that those issues must be resolved before we can wholeheartedly enter into this trade agreement.

Guto Bebb: I accept that we must ensure that a treaty requires a level playing field for food producers. The Farmers Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union in Wales have certainly been very supportive of such efforts. Indeed, Hybu Cig Cymru, which promotes Welsh meat, has been to Washington in anticipation of the potential impact of the treaty on the Welsh food sector.

We need to make sure that there is a level playing field, but it is worth recalling the words of the Governor of Delaware when we were in America. That state is a huge producer of chickens, which it cannot export to the EU marketplace. He made a very fair point when he highlighted the fact that 96% of Members of the European Parliament have voted for a ban on American chickens, but that he had not met a single MEP visiting Delaware who said no to a club sandwich. When we talk about a safety issue, it is important that the issue is genuinely one about safety, not about a regulatory requirement that damages free trade.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Is that not the key point? Without agreements such as this one, we will not have a level playing field, but will go backwards to having more barriers across the piece.

Guto Bebb: I could not agree more. It is a shame that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) is no longer in his place. On the regulatory burden in relation not to the food industry but to the automobile sector, which would undoubtedly benefit from a TTIP agreement, Jaguar Land Rover—a huge investor in our manufacturing base—has highlighted the regulations on airbags. It has to insert different panels and dashboards in its vehicles for the American market, because airbags in America have to work on the basis of people not wearing a seatbelt, while those in the European Union do so on the basis of people wearing a seatbelt. That leads to extra cost, and it is a disincentive for trade. We could certainly benefit consumers by dealing with such regulations, which seem to have no purpose whatever, except to add cost and possibly to create extra employment for health and safety experts on either side of the Atlantic.

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Another scare story that I should mention is the one about these agreements bringing no advantage to consumers. Anybody who has listened to Which? would be hard pressed to conclude that no consumer would benefit from such a trade agreement. When people argue that consumers will not benefit from free trade, there is something important to bear in mind: I find it very odd that the very people who make that argument do so by sending me e-mails from iPads manufactured in China or from Samsung telephones manufactured in Korea. They are quite willing to use the advantages of free trade to communicate their concerns about free trade, which puts them in a very odd position.

Another key issue about which I am seriously concerned is how the national health service is again being used as a political football in this debate. I want to state on the record that nobody can outflank me in supporting the concept of a health service free at the point of use for those in need. Somebody whose family has needed the support of the health service, as mine has, would never not support the concept of a free health service. However, the mere concept that American companies accessing the health sector in the United Kingdom is somehow different from European ones doing so is very odd.

I simply do not get another of the arguments in relation to people being so concerned about the involvement of private companies in our health service. Ever since the instigation of the NHS in 1948, the most respected part of the health service has been the traditional GP surgery. That is a robust private sector initiative within the health service. The issue is not about whether doctors make a profit because of their work, but about whether they offer patients a good service. I would be very comfortable with American companies delivering medical services, provided that those services are of a very high standard, are in tune with United Kingdom regulations and, more importantly, are delivering good patient care. Surely that is the issue. It is a pedantic view that any private involvement is simply wrong. We need to challenge that view. We need to be honest about the way in which the private sector adds value to the health service. We should reject the use of the health service to attack the TTIP.

Katy Clark: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Guto Bebb: I have to conclude my remarks, because I have only two minutes left.

We have talked about investor-state dispute settlement. The United Kingdom has been signing such agreements for an extremely long time and some 94 agreements are in place. As yet, not a single challenge has been made on the basis of public policy and not a single case has been lost by the United Kingdom. I genuinely believe that this matter is being used by those who are lobbying against a trade treaty to make people feel opposed to it.

I have some sympathy with the argument that if such scaremongering is a danger to the treaty, we should ask ourselves whether we can compromise on that issue. We must acknowledge that the US and the EU have well-established, mature legal systems. I say that not because I agree with the arguments that are being made, but because I want to ensure that as few obstacles as possible get in the way of the treaty, which I genuinely believe would make a significant difference to our economic performance.

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I have talked about food. It is crucial to my constituency that we have access to other markets. Farmers in the Conwy valley believe that they could export more than £30 million-worth of Welsh lamb to the US. The deal is therefore extremely important.

The key point is that any treaty must take into account the needs not just of large corporations, but of small businesses. Economic recovery in Wales is dependent on small businesses and this treaty must work for them as well.

4.16 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): A number of people have said that there must be a good business case for the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. I think that we need much more than a good business case. I am concerned that there are huge inherent dangers in the TTIP for many working people and for public services in the UK. My major concern is that the trade agreement has the potential to dilute workers’ rights.

The hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) said twice that people are scaremongering with regard to the TTIP. He must not mix up scaremongering with people taking a different view from him.

There are two major problems with the TTIP. The first is labour rights and the second is investor-state dispute settlement, which we have discussed a lot this afternoon. I listened carefully to the Minister. He said, basically, that ISDS is ineffective. If it is ineffective and has not been used as much as everybody thinks it has, why is it in the agreement at all? That is a simple question. Why do we have ISDS if we do not need it?

The proposal is that the TTIP would establish in law the right of multinational corporations to sue nation states in a special court through investor-state dispute settlement if the nation’s regulatory framework is deemed to be a barrier to free trade. Of course that is concerning. It should concern everyone in this House. ISDS is a one-way street by which corporations can challenge Government policies, but neither Governments nor individuals are granted comparable rights to hold corporations accountable. Opinions suggest that these clauses could thwart attempts by a future Government to bring a health service back towards public ownership—again, that issue has been discussed at great length today.

It has been said time and again that there are major concerns about the impact the TTIP could have on the future of the NHS, and on the way the wider public sector is organised in the UK. There should have been a clear exemption, particularly for the NHS but also for the public sector more widely, in the negotiated mandate agreed by the European Council. Given the implications of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 for the commissioning and organisation of health services in the UK, there is a clear danger that major private health care corporations will be looking for opportunities within any TTIP agreement to force further large-scale privatisation.

There is an additional danger in the proposed inclusion in any TTIP agreement of an ISDS. Both the EU and the USA have respected and strong legal systems, and there is no justification for creating a mechanism to allow corporations to bypass the usual legal process to launch expropriation litigation should a UK Government

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attempt to bring elements of the health service, or other parts of the public sector, back under direct public control.

Labour rights are also extremely important. As I think has been mentioned, the US has ratified only 14 of the 190 International Labour Organisation conventions —among the lowest in the world. It has ratified only two of the eight core conventions dealing with forced labour, child labour, freedom of association and discrimination. It has not ratified conventions 87 or 98, and is almost certainly in breach of both, according to the ILO freedom of association committee.

The Wall Street Journal is not a newspaper that I normally acquire in the morning, nor want to read, but on this occasion I read a report that stated:

“Congressional Republicans are only willing to agree TTIP if extending EU labour standards…to the US is ruled out in advance.”

It basically states that congressional Republicans will agree to a TTIP only if the extension of any workers’ rights is ruled out before the TTIP is agreed in its entirety. If that is the case, it will be interesting to see what the EU has to say. I would have thought we understood that discussions would take place without any preconditions, and if there are preconditions—if that is what the Republicans are saying—perhaps we in the UK have little to concern ourselves about.

Many of those in US unions see a labour chapter in the TTIP as potentially opening up a European-style social model and worker dialogue with employers, which in some parts of the USA I think would be seen as a huge advantage. That has been explained clearly by the Communication Workers of America and the United Steelworkers. Organisations that have been terribly supportive of a TTIP that would enhance labour rights within the framework include the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. The American Federation of Labor has a loud, clear voice and a mandate of 11 million workers.

4.23 pm

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): It is a great pleasure to speak in this important debate and I add my congratulations to the all-party group on EU-US trade and investment, and to the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) on securing this debate. I am pleased to contribute to this debate because, along with other Members from across the House, I had the opportunity to visit the United States in November as part of the British-American parliamentary group, on a visit focusing on the TTIP negotiations. I confess that prior to that visit, like many Members and people across the country, I had a lack of awareness about the negotiations. I was aware that something was taking place, but frankly I could not have said what TTIP stood for. On the visit I was particularly interested in the impact on small businesses, having run a small business before coming to this place. I represent a constituency in the west midlands with a resurgent motor industry, so I was also keen to see the impact on that sector.

It takes two parties to make a deal. Across the House, I think we have seen broad enthusiasm for the TTIP, and that is reflected across the UK and the EU. Generally, I think there is less enthusiasm in the US. Part of our

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role is to understand the anxieties and fears of people in the US and consider how we might persuade them to come to a deal. In Washington, we met politicians from both parties. We also went beyond Washington to meet officials in places such as Philadelphia and Delaware. We raised with the Governor of Delaware the possibility of public procurement being included in the TTIP and becoming available for countries outside the US. I have to confess that the Governor’s principal concern was jobs. Indeed, we heard concerns about jobs across the piece from all the organisations we spoke to.

We met the American Farm Bureau Federation and spoke about the opportunities for its produce in the UK. It expressed concern over geographical indicators: it would not be able to call its hard cheese “parmesan” in the UK market, as it is able to in the US. It also has concerns regarding the accessibility of its largely genetically modified foods in the UK. We met the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Perhaps I might reassure the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), who has just spoken, that labour organisations in the US see the TTIP as an opportunity to bring Europe’s higher labour standards to the US, rather than allowing for transit in the opposite direction.

Throughout our discussions we heard about the need for a fast-track authority in the US that provides an unamendable resolution. The Minister talked about whether the granting of the fast-track process would affect the timing of a deal. I think it goes further than that. In the absence of fast track, it is highly unlikely that any deal will ever be made, because without a fast-track process any vested interest that believed it was threatened by the TTIP could derail an agreement. President Obama has made it clear that he would like to see a fast-track negotiating authority, but this remains unresolved. Indeed, we were shown a letter from 22 Members of Congress addressed to the President stating that they would not agree to cede constitutional authority to the Executive through the approval of a fast-track authority.

We found a real shortage of awareness about the TTIP in the US. It is important to recognise that in November, when we were there, the US Government had just had their first shutdown as a consequence of the stand-off between the parties on the budget. That in itself had led to the postponement of talks. There was also a preoccupation with the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. More than once in meetings we heard people say that Obamacare was sucking the oxygen out of all other policy discussions in the US.

My impression of how Americans see the TTIP talks is that they are bothered that they have more to lose than they have to gain. They have a massive prize that they believe they are being asked to give away: access to the biggest and most successful market in the world. They need reassurance that if they allow access to their market, there will be something in it for them. There is a feeling that in earlier trade agreements—perhaps the agreement between Canada and Mexico—US negotiators had given too much away and that that had led to “Buy American” campaigns. The concern of opponents is that the TTIP might give too much away and that that will lead to labour losses.

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Guto Bebb: On the “Buy American” strategy in America, is it not the case that the concern lies more with politicians than businesses? One business in Philadelphia said that “Buy American” often means paying more for lower quality, and that they do not have their own businesses to develop it.

Mark Pawsey: My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but the perception of politicians was that the “Buy American” policy kept jobs in the United States and prevented them from being lost. As politicians, they wanted to ensure that employment in their states was being maximised.

The US does not always give things away and there is not a gung-ho attitude to the free market. Regular reference was made to the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, otherwise known as the Jones Act, being a great example of how America can be protectionist when it wishes to be. That is the legislation that requires all goods transported by water between US ports to be carried on US-flagged ships constructed in the US, owned by US citizens and crewed by US citizens. So the US can be protectionist and prevent other countries from gaining access to its markets. We heard more than once the quote from Benjamin Franklin:

“No nation was ever ruined by trade.”

The TTIP provides massive opportunities for US goods and produce in the EU.

In the UK there is broad support, as we have heard from both Front Benches today, and why would there not be, when we are talking about 50% of world GDP and 30% of international trade? This is an opportunity for us only if our economy, our industry and our service companies are in shape to take advantage of it. That is why the broader policies of this Government to increase our competitiveness and our skills agenda are important. If those are right, we can take advantage of an additional £10 billion to the UK economy.

I am pleased that the Federation of Small Businesses here in the UK welcomes the TTIP negotiations and looks forward to a resolution. A fifth of FSB members are exporters, and the US is the second most important destination for small businesses that export. It is believed that the TTIP could add 400,000 UK jobs. The FSB has set out a wish-list for the TTIP, including a pledge to promote entrepreneurship and a pledge of smart regulation on both sides of the Atlantic.

This has been a very important debate. There are big opportunities for both the EU and the US in growth and jobs. There needs to be a timetable. One of the concerns that I was left with as I came away is that there are rather more serious consequences of not doing a deal than there would ever be of doing a deal.

4.32 pm

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): I begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) and others and the Backbench Business Committee on scheduling this important debate.

If we want to achieve the permanent rebalancing of the economy more towards manufacturing and export-led growth, expanding markets for our goods and services and removing barriers to trade are essential. According to the OBR, two thirds of all UK growth between

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mid-2010 and 2015 was expected to stem from rising exports and business investment, but the most recent estimates indicate that less than a fifth of the growth over that period will come from those sources, and there are 300,000 fewer people working in our manufacturing industries, compared with 2008. This is adding to the United Kingdom’s growing problem with productivity. The proposed transatlantic trade and investment partnership that this House is considering today is vital to realising the vision of a higher wage and more highly skilled economy. As we know, this is an agreement that will expand global trade, not take trade away from other parts of the world.

We know that exports are likely to rise by 6% in the EU and by 8% in the United States, but we must recognise that this agreement has to benefit all in our societies, not just those at the very top. Reducing tariffs, securing regulatory convergence and aligning technical trading standards could make a family of four in the EU up to €545 a year better off. It could boost GDP in this country by up to £10 billion a year, according to the Government’s own impact assessment, and create up to 400,000 jobs.

As Which? found when preparing a briefing for Members before this debate, average import tariffs are 4%, but clothing imported from the US is subject to a tariff three times higher. Reducing roaming charges for communications and data services across the Atlantic and improving the co-ordination of food traceability would be tangible benefits for consumers from this agreement, but there will be areas where retaining separate regulatory systems, such as in financial services, will be absolutely vital without prejudicing the overall aims of the negotiations.

The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) used his formidable powers of advocacy to try to persuade the House that there was nothing in the proposed investor-state dispute mechanism about which Members ought to be concerned. I fear that, on this occasion at least, he was not entirely successful. He was right to point to the 91 agreements of a similar nature in bilateral investment agreements that we have signed with other countries, but perhaps he missed an important point. This agreement would bind 28 member states, which at the moment may have different standards in all these areas. We should do nothing in these negotiations to undermine the crucial role that the European Court of Justice plays in ensuring equal standards across the European Union.

We know that article 226 of the EU treaty permits member states that have breached treaty requirements to be brought before the ECJ for infraction proceedings, which bind all member states. The problem with the arbitration anticipated in some drafts of the negotiations is that it would not bind all member states: it would simply bind the parties to that individual dispute. We should emphasise that, in these discussions, the ECJ should be the final arbiter—the binding and conclusive arbiter—of whether member states have breached their commitments. We should do nothing to upset its position.

Removing barriers for EU exporters should not mean removing hard-won protections in the workplace. There should be a levelling up of standards, not a race to the bottom. We know that US workplace fatalities are three times as high as those in the EU. Simply by having a system of mutual recognition without recognising the

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protections we have at EU level could lead to concerns among workers. Neither should there be an expansion of competition into the national health service or other public services as a result of the TTIP.

The maximum benefits of this deal to British business and consumers flow from the strength that the European Union possesses in negotiating on behalf of all member states. Bilateral agreements between the US and each of the 28 member states, or with clusters of member states, would not be achievable, would not have the same worth and would not provide the same potential boost to living standards or to trade. Those who envisage the United Kingdom’s destiny as outside the European Union must address this point: why remove ourselves from the clear advantages to consumers and manufacturing exporters of this potential deal, or believe we could achieve as good a deal bilaterally with the United States, when the US Administration have said that they are interested in securing only an EU-wide deal?

It took more than 30 rounds of negotiation to secure the trans-pacific partnership, so I hope that the fourth round of TTIP negotiations, due to begin next month, can, given the important politics behind this issue, proceed at a more accelerated pace. We know that there will be elections for the European Parliament this May, the installation of a new European Commission later this year and the US presidential election in 2016. I welcome the fact that the chief negotiators gave a press conference last year on the progress of the talks, but stronger mechanisms must be developed to ensure that national parliaments—which, after all, have to ratify any agreement—are more properly consulted and have an opportunity to comment on or shape the context of the discussions.

In conclusion, let us hope that an eventually concluded deal can lead the way to further such agreements across the world. We have to bring down barriers to trade if we are to rebalance the global economy. Our exporters expect no less, consumers expect no less and future generations of manufacturing and service workers will expect no less either.

4.39 pm

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Let me say at the outset that I am pro-trade. I want our export industry to increase, and I want everything possible to be done to ensure that that can happen—and happen successfully. I think that we should approach the TTIP with confidence, but I agree with the Minister that we should also be alert to the needs of our community and our businesses, and ensure that they are given as much protection as possible in the negotiations.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan) not only on the fact that he represents the finest-named constituency in the House, but on his agility in rightly focusing Members’ minds on the dynamics of the Scottish debate and how important it is to us. The Minister responded to the hon. Gentleman’s comments robustly, but I think that the issue should be a priority for us as well, and that we should remind our neighbours and friends of its importance to them.

I want to focus on farming, food production and consumer rights, because they affect my constituents dramatically. As I said to the Minister in an intervention,

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a good deal will be marked by how we ensure that the rights and needs of our farmers—our primary producers of food, and of excellent food—are protected, aided and abetted in the negotiations. There is no doubt that we produce the best traceable food in the world. It is a £20 billion-plus industry and an essential trade, and in my part of the United Kingdom it is the most essential trade. It is a mainstay of business and employment. It is the one sector in which our productivity is increasing annually. I believe that last year our food production increased by an average of about 12%. That is a Chinese-style proportion of growth. We need to keep a careful eye on it, and ensure that it continues.

The fact that we produce the best food in the world makes that food not just worth protecting, but worth exporting. It is clear that people want to buy our food and drink products. In my constituency, for example, the Bushmills distillery produces what I am told is the finest whiskey in the world. The Minister will have sampled it many, many times. That distillery employs 102 people in my constituency, but 90% of what it produces is exported, and the vast majority goes to the United States of America. Last year, its trade increased by 14%. Such growth must be encouraged, and must be seen as a major opportunity in the TTIP negotiations.

Jim Shannon: Not teetotal!

Ian Paisley: No, not teetotal, but TTIP.

I urge the Minister to think of the 85,000 people in our community who are involved in agri-food production, and to ensure that they and their rights are put at the top of the agenda, because that affects consumer confidence. We can say to our consumers, with strength and authority, that we know what they are consuming because it is traceable. That is one of the advantages that we have as an island nation, and we must use it to our advantage, because it makes our food a very desirable commodity. We need to ensure that food that is imported to the United Kingdom meets the same exacting standards as the food that we produce here. One way in which we can do that is to ensure that labelling is accurate, so that when we, as consumers, go to the supermarket, the local butcher or another local shop, we can see for ourselves what has been imported and where it has come from.

I think that farmers in the United States have a significant cost-of-production advantage over many farmers in the European Community. US farmers bear a lighter regulatory burden; they have a different approach to animal welfare, and they have a very different approach to animal traceability in their food production. They use hormones, and their environmental legislation is very different from ours. We must take cognisance of that in any trade negotiation. Trade must mean ensuring that imports are produced to equivalent standards, and that product labelling clearly distinguishes between different production methods in a way that is meaningful and not misleading. The Minister spoke about red lines. We do not have to reveal all the red lines; this should be a priority, and we should be aware of that.

The US is very competitive in beef production. Our prices are at crisis levels. Given the significant cost and production advantages in the US through the use of hormone growth promoters, if any changes are made to

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the EU hormone rules and tariffs are eliminated, it is likely that the US would be in a position significantly to increase the volume of beef exported to the UK. That could damage our significant industry. We need to be alert to that and to ensure that we get the best deal for our primary producers.

The poultry sector should be treated as a sensitive sector. Why do I say that? Since 1997, American poultry has not been allowed to be imported into the European Community because of pathogen reduction treatments. Those treatments mean that we do not believe that consumers should eat American poultry. If changes to the PRT rules result in an increase in poultry imports to the EC from the US, we need to take a careful line on that and ensure that we put our poultry industry, which is one of the biggest in the world and is associated directly with Brazil, first in the negotiations.

Those are key issues that will determine business direction in our country. I hope that the Minister will, as he has said, be alert to those issues.

4.46 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the House for not being able to be here for the first part of the debate. I will end my remarks in time for my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) to conclude the debate.

We should be extremely cautious about the whole process that has been put before us. If anyone has looked at the experience of the free trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, they will quickly see who benefits and even more quickly who loses as a result of it. The people who lose out are those who are on the margins of society, those who are vulnerable and those who are open to great exploitation. Thus, farm workers in Mexico have lost their jobs in favour of high-tech farming imports from the US; and US companies have moved across the border to Mexico to exploit lower wages. Mexican trucks are not allowed to drive into the US beyond a short distance from the border. There are a lot of restrictions. It is not an equal power relationship. It is a very damaging power relationship. The agreement is unpopular in the US and Canada, but it is also unpopular with many people in Mexico, who see themselves losing out as a result of that.

I give that as an example. We should be extremely cautious about the claims that are made. When the North American Free Trade Agreement was reached, it was claimed that there would be several million new jobs as a result. The result has actually been the loss of about 1 million jobs. The same exaggerated but unsubstantiated claims about jobs and the profits that will be made by particular companies are being made about the transatlantic agreement.

There are specific concerns. Why is there such secrecy surrounding the negotiations? Why are all the documents not on the table? Why are the demands made on European public services by the American negotiators not made public? Why are the demands made in the other direction not also made public? I suspect that, if the agreement ever comes to fruition, every Parliament in Europe and the US system will be presented with a fait accompli: they will be told that they have to accept it.

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There are huge concerns. Many of my colleagues have raised concerns about the NHS. We all, I hope, support the principle of a health service free at the point of use. What we do not support is the destruction of our health service in favour of a series of companies coming in to take over very efficient services delivered by public sector workers.

Debbie Abrahams: Is my hon. Friend not concerned that the Government still refuse to say that the NHS will be exempt from the TTIP negotiations?

Jeremy Corbyn: Absolutely. It seems strange that we cannot say that we are going to exempt the NHS from discussions. I am sure plenty of pressure will be put on to exempt cultural industries, particularly from France, which will probably be accepted. The same thing should apply to the NHS.

There are a couple of other issues that I want to mention. The first relates to our ability to decide the future of our own public services. At the moment, Britain’s railway system is a combination of a state-owned rail company and privatised services. The European directive on railways envisages a totally privatised system across the whole of this continent. I suspect that, under the kind of agreement we are discussing today, privatisation would be foisted on everyone on both sides of the Atlantic.

Secondly, concerns have been raised about working conditions, health and safety at work conditions and environmental protection. I am sure that all those companies that are busy lining up to destroy union organisation in the USA would want to do exactly the same on this side of the Atlantic. Various Members have mentioned environmental protection and environmental conditions. In the US, there are far fewer environmental protection

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measures—there is much more genetically modified food on sale and in regular supply, for example. Are we to destroy many of the hard-fought and hard-gained social advantages across Europe in relation to farming systems, to animal protection and welfare and to health and safety, in favour of a free-for-all for those big companies? We need to be very careful. Democracy is the issue, and democracy ought to be the means by which we decide these issues, rather than secret negotiations resulting in a fait accompli being presented to us.

4.51 pm

John Healey: We have had a good debate, with very good speeches from both sides. Notwithstanding the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), the debate has provided confirmation of the strong cross-party support for an ambitious deal, as well as confirmation of the concerns that will need to be dealt with if we are not to risk derailing that support. The House will have been glad to hear the Minister without Portfolio, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), say that such cross-party support helps to strengthen our influence and the leading role that Britain can play in the negotiations. I hope that he will also see this debate as a demonstration of the House’s desire to hear more about what the Government are doing to increase public debate and understanding, to involve legitimate interest groups in the discussions and to use our leading influence in the negotiations to secure a successful deal. I am sure that the whole House will look forward to a further debate on this issue, perhaps even in Government time.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

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EU Funding

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(John Penrose.)

4.52 pm

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I welcome the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Front Bench, and I hope that his presence will presage a more balanced approach to the decisions on the EU funding period than has been the case to date. I hope that that hope will not be dashed.

Eight months ago, I led an Adjournment debate on two decisions that Ministers had made on EU regional funding. The first, announced on 26 March, was on the allocation of funds between the four UK nation states. The second, announced on 27 June, was on the allocation of funds between the English regions. I argued then that those decisions were unfair and unjustifiable. I was supported then, as now, by colleagues from South Yorkshire and from Merseyside. Two weeks ago, in the High Court, Mr Justice Stewart stated that

“the decisions of 26 March 2013 and 27 June 2013 are quashed”.

The Ministers were wrong. Their decisions are unfair, unjustifiable and unlawful. They take funds from South Yorkshire and from Merseyside to top up support for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to limit their losses to 5% while cutting our support by more than 50% compared with the figure for the current full EU funding period. They undermine the very purpose of EU structural funds, which of course is to boost the jobs, skills, businesses and economies of the regions lagging behind.

Documents disclosed for the first time to the Court show just how far Ministers are cheating South Yorkshire and Merseyside. They show that the Government have calculated that the European Commission’s intended allocation for South Yorkshire would be €236 million—€58 million more than Ministers plan. They show Merseyside’s intended allocation from the EU to be €318 million—€116 million more than Ministers propose. I suspect the Secretary of State may say that the allocation methodology was not found by the Court to be flawed, even though the judgment found that the allocations were unlawful. They were unlawful because Ministers: failed to comply with the public sector equalities duty; failed to avoid discrimination against those in our ex-industrial areas; and failed to consider the consequences of using criteria that took no account of the respective economic needs in all UK regions—in other words, we are talking about equality of funding.

I say to the Secretary of State that that is a concern to me, to my Labour colleagues, to our councils and to our business organisations in South Yorkshire and Merseyside. It will also be a concern to the European Commission, because the principle of equality is a general principle of EU law and a right conferred by it. By protecting Northern Ireland and allowing Scotland to protect the highlands and islands, the Government have completely distorted the funding purpose and the budget for the nine English transition regions, resulting in some wealthy, more developed regions receiving significantly more funding from the EU in this proposed seven-year period than the transition regions, which have a much lower GDP.

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Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I am slightly surprised that European funding, when allocated, can actually be interfered with by Ministers if it has already been agreed. I presume that is legal, but is it?

John Healey: The allocations are made to the United Kingdom, whose Government then have a degree of discretion about the distribution of those funds within the UK. What was at stake in the Court challenge and is at stake in this debate is whether those decisions were fair, whether they were justifiable and whether they were lawful. That is the point at stake and it is where things have changed since the debate I introduced about eight months ago.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned Northern Ireland. Does he accept that Northern Ireland’s fuel costs are the highest in the whole UK, its levels of unemployment exceed those in other parts of the UK and its educational standards do not match those of some areas of the UK, and that allocations of EU moneys are based on the criteria of need and Northern Ireland falls into that category? I would be happy to see Yorkshire getting its true worth, but I would hate to see it happening at the expense of those in Northern Ireland.

John Healey: I understand that. Northern Ireland, South Yorkshire and Merseyside all face similar problems, and under this funding period arrangement they have all been designated as transition regions. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that the GDP—the wealth, product and income—in Northern Ireland is in fact higher than it is in South Yorkshire and in Merseyside, yet the decisions the Government have taken mean that Northern Ireland will be protected, with its drop in funding for these seven years compared with the previous seven years being limited to just 5%, whereas we face a funding cut of more than 50%. I think he would agree that that simply is not fair.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I apologise to my right hon. Friend for the number of interventions, but he is so well informed. A few moments ago, he referred to the protection of the highlands and islands of Scotland. Will he offer advice to me and perhaps to the people of Scotland as to what might happen in the event of Scotland voting for independence?

John Healey: My right hon. Friend poses a bigger question than I would have imagined from the terms of this debate. Clearly, Scotland would have to become a part of the European Union and then to lay its claim for any potential structural funding support in the way that this programme is designed to deliver.

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the work that he has done in co-ordinating the concern of the South Yorkshire region over this issue. Does he agree that the perverse impacts of the way in which the Government have brought together their formula are illustrated by the fact that Cheshire, which happens to include the Chancellor’s constituency, has been allocated 34% more per head than South Yorkshire, even though its GDP is 19% above the EU average while ours is 16% below? What conclusion

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does he draw from the way in which the Deputy Prime Minister, although supposedly representing our region, has strongly defended the formula, which took money intended for areas such as ours and other poorer regions and gave it to wealthier areas?

John Healey: First, the Deputy Prime Minister was asleep on the job when the decisions were taken in government. Secondly, he is allowing the arguments that we have heard from other Ministers in this Chamber to pull the wool over his eyes. He has not been standing up for South Yorkshire, and I see this as a Forgemasters mark 2 against the card of the Deputy Prime Minister.

A more measured reflection on the figures that my hon. Friend has just given allow me to continue to develop my argument, which is that the Government’s approach to date does not apply the principles of equality and proportionality. Similar regions were treated differently, and allocations were not proportionate to their needs. I say to the Secretary of State that we will not let this matter rest. We will take it all the way. Our councils will take the case to the Appeal Court to ensure that the principles are taken into account by the UK Government, just as the EU does in designing and allocating the structural funds in the first place. We will also take the case to Commissioner Hahn, who has to approve UK Ministers’ plans to ensure that those principles are taken into account.

The High Court judgment two weeks ago requires Ministers to review, but not necessarily to change, the funding decisions. I urge the Secretary of State to take a fresh and deep view of this set of decisions. He should revise those decisions now rather than being forced to do so later.

Let me take the Secretary of State back to what his junior Minister, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), said in the first debate. He rightly said:

“The aim of the funds is to provide EU member states and regions with assistance to overcome structural deficiencies and to enable them to strengthen competitiveness and increase employment.”—[Official Report, 1 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 725.]

The EU funds are designed to give a boost to the economy of flagging regions. It is an outrage that areas of the UK with more jobs, wealth, businesses and prosperity are also getting more European funding in the period ahead. South Yorkshire is one of those 11 transition regions in the UK, which means that our GDP is between 75% and 90% of the European average. All the more developed regions have a GDP of at least 90% of the European average. Nine of them will receive more, not less, funding than the Sheffield city region. They include Worcestershire and Leicestershire. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) has said, they also include Cheshire and Warrington, which have a GDP not of 84% like South Yorkshire but of 119% of the European average and will get EU funding not of €117 per head like South Yorkshire but of €157 a head.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for highlighting this Government’s lamentable record on the transparency and fairness of previous funding allocations. Does he agree that there is no justification for this latest round of gerrymandering whereby the richer regions will benefit over and above areas such as Merseyside and his constituency and area?

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John Healey: I do indeed. The judge at the hearing described the situation as bizarre. He rightly said that the decision to protect Northern Ireland and Scotland was what got the Government into this mess and skewed the budget for the nine English transition regions.

Let me illustrate the point about the flaws and the unfairness just by looking at the highlands and islands of Scotland, which like South Yorkshire is an ex-objective 1 area and, in the current funding period, has phasing status—in other words diminishing and tapering funding during the seven years. It is a transition region in the next period and has a GDP exactly the same as that of South Yorkshire—84% of the European average. But unlike South Yorkshire it is set to get not €117 a head but €478 for every man, woman and child in the region. In other words, it is similar in economic status but will receive more than four times the European funding for the seven years ahead. The Chief Secretary was clearly doing a job for his area. The Deputy Prime Minister was clearly not doing a job for ours when the Government were blatantly making such bad and damaging decisions for South Yorkshire.

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting this debate. Does he think it ironic, after the 20 years or more of changing South Yorkshire’s infrastructure as a result of the coal mining programme, that we see a succession of members of this Government coming to the Advanced Manufacturing Park? The last Government used structural funds to build it, and these Ministers now all get their photo shots done there. It is attempting to turn the South Yorkshire economy around, yet the same people appear to be putting the boot into South Yorkshire through the structural funding.

John Healey: My right hon. Friend is right. We know how to use funds well in South Yorkshire. We have plans to use them well in the future. The Secretary of State himself has regularly visited the Advanced Manufacturing Park. He will know what a contribution it is making to overcoming some of the structural weakness in the South Yorkshire economy. We will fight this all the way because the Government are making decisions not just for next year’s funding. These decisions set the funding for a full seven years—for the whole of the next Parliament and the next Government and beyond. That is why they are so important. The Secretary of State has agreed to meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Mr Watts). I hope that the review that the Court judgment has forced on Ministers will mean that he will lead the Government in thinking again and making good the funding shortfall for South Yorkshire and Merseyside that the allocation decisions so far have caused.

5.9 pm

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) on securing the debate. I welcome it because it gives me the first opportunity to set out in the House how we want to respond to the High Court, because we are dealing essentially with the legal implications of that ruling.

Let me start with the legal particulars before getting on to the wider policy question. On 7 February 2014, the High Court indeed quashed two decisions that I

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made last year. The first allocated EU funds to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the second allocated funds to local enterprise partnerships within England. Two arguments were put forward by the claimants—the LEPs representing south Yorkshire and Merseyside—in the judicial review case. The first was that the allocations were irrational and unreasonable, which is the case the right hon. Gentleman has developed again today, and the second was that insufficient regard had been paid to the public sector equality duty.

On the first point—and this is absolutely crucial to the debate—the Court found that the methodology and allocations were rational, proportionate and permissible, and the claimants’ arguments on these points were dismissed. That is relevant, because it was not so much the right hon. Gentleman in his speech but some of his colleagues in their interventions who talked about gerrymandering, or the arbitrary attempt to include the Chancellor’s constituency. It is very clear that the Court found that the decisions were not arbitrary in that way. They may not have produced the satisfactory political outcome from Opposition Members’ point of view, but the Court did not uphold the argument that there was any form of irrationality or disproportionality in the decision.

John Healey: The Secretary of State is factually correct, as I said in my remarks, but does he regard those decisions as fair and consistent with the purposes of the European structural fund?

Vince Cable: Well, we do, because we have been trying to reconcile a whole series of different issues. I was going to make this point to the right hon. Gentleman later: he has been a Local Government Minister in his earlier capacity. I remember petitioning on behalf of my own council. He knows the problems of allocating resources when there is a fixed pot of money; some people will be happy and some people will be unhappy. These are difficult decisions, and we derived a methodology that we believed to be fair. These decisions were not based on arbitrary allocations; they were based on a methodology. That is very important—these were not arbitrary decisions.

The judge ruled—the ruling was very clear—on the sole ground that our public sector equality duty was not met, even though an equality impact assessment was completed and it concluded that it was unlikely that having regard to such a duty would have made any difference to the original decisions by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Steve Rotheram: Taken in isolation, perhaps the argument stands up in regard to what is perhaps a quirk of the formula. However, the moral argument may not be about the methodology; it is certainly about the poorer areas being penalised by the richer areas, which are the only beneficiaries from the formula.

Vince Cable: It is simply not true that richer areas are the only beneficiaries. There was a redistributive effect in some of the poorer areas of the country. If I remember correctly—I may be incorrect—the north-east of England, or many parts of it, benefited from this reallocation, but I will check that.

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Let me go to the central point. Following the ruling, we have to follow the law. That is obviously our duty, and I now have to take a fresh decision on the allocations, having regard to the public sector equality duty. We are now doing further work, which we will take into account in making a new decision. However, I have to be clear about this point: on the basis of the Court ruling, the new decision will be limited to reconsideration of allocations in light of any impact on equality. We are not planning to reconsider the methodology, unless the equalities assessment highlights the need to do so. Obviously, we will need to be legally compliant and we will be legally compliant.

We want to announce the decisions in the next few weeks and it is very important that we move quickly, because we want to end the uncertainty about the allocation, which affects jobs and growth across the UK. I also want to make it clear that of course I regard it as absolutely essential that we pursue policies that are equal and fair. I have set out on many occasions my vision that equality, diversity and inclusion be embedded in what the Department does, so we will be working hard over the next few weeks to ensure that we meet our obligations under the public sector equality duty.

The right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne confirmed that Liverpool and Sheffield are seeking permission to try to overturn the High Court ruling on methodology. While they have every right to do so, I am obviously disappointed that they feel the need to take such action, not least because it risks delaying the allocation of funding. However, clearly the matter must be tested in the courts.

Let me say a little about the wider context regarding Liverpool and Sheffield, because the right hon. Gentleman is right that we must be balanced when looking at this in the round. It is fundamental that we take account of regions’ need and relative prosperity. Given his history in government, I am sure that he understands that Sheffield and Liverpool will not be alone—this is the nature of such allocations—in thinking that they would like more money. However, the EU sets the overall budget and we must address the needs of all UK regions.

The Liverpool and Sheffield decisions were reached after a great deal of thought and in recognition of the areas’ history, with which the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar. Between 2000 and 2006, Liverpool and Sheffield were both objective 1 regions, meaning that they were among the parts of the country with the greatest need, which was reflected in their higher funding. In 2007, they were reclassified as phasing-in regions because the indicators showed, although the levels were relatively low, that there had been considerable economic progress. Their recategorisation as phasing-in regions between 2007 and 2013 was designed to avoid the steep and sudden cut in EU funding that would have followed from relatively high levels of economic activity.

As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, the phasing-in regions received a tapered reduction in funding between 2007 and 2010—given that he was in government, I am sure that he followed that process closely—and then received the same amount of annual funding between 2011 and 2013. The crucial point in this argument is that the phasing-in regions were fully aware of their changing status, so they must have anticipated a significant drop in funding between 2014 and 2020. The right hon.

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Gentleman must have helped to negotiate the current programme when he was in government, and it states categorically:

“Because of its phasing-in status South Yorkshire’s financial allocation annual profile is heavily weighted towards the first four years and tapers off towards the end of the programming period”.

The transition is clearly awkward for the areas affected, but it was fully anticipated and had nothing to do with a change of Government, as it was going to happen in any event.

South Yorkshire and Merseyside are now categorised as transition regions and must be treated in the same way as other such regions. The original BIS decision gave each transition region a 15% funding increase against an overall drop of 8% in European structural funds, with an across-the-board formula applied.

To give a wider context, I want to say a little about the support that we are trying to give through regional growth, some aspects of which have fairly been mentioned. It needs to be emphasised—this was missing from the right hon. Gentleman’s speech—that about half the funding in the period between 2007 and 2013 was retained for allocation by central Government, but we have tried to change to a more locally-based allocation system, with local areas, through their LEPs, determining how 95% of structural funds will be used. While some areas might have had more funding in the past, they did not have their current power to direct resources to their own priorities.

EU funding is only one aspect of official funding. The right hon. Gentleman will know about some of the schemes we have going, which I will run through quickly. The Sheffield city region has been granted enterprise zone status to extend the capability of advanced manufacturing technology, including £14 million to develop the Markham Vale site—I visited it some time ago following a suggestion by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner)—which we expect to generate just under £100 million in private investment and create 2,000-plus new jobs.

Sheffield’s city deal is expected to bring in £72 million in public and private investment over the next three years. The transport fund alone could be worth £500 million. Not every transition region has a deal of that kind. In

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addition, under the first three rounds of the regional growth fund Sheffield was allocated £57 million, including £25 million in support to the LEP’s business investment programme to unlock £100 million in direct investment, and £9 million has gone to three bids in round 4, although they are still going through due diligence.

Finally, the advanced manufacturing research centre, which I have taken a personal interest in—I met several Sheffield colleagues early in my period in office to try to help facilitate it—has now been allocated £37 million for development and manufacturing research in the civil nuclear sector. The centre is proving brilliantly successful and expanding rapidly. It is the source of the world’s most advanced research factory through the £43 million Factory of the Future project, to which we have granted £10 million.

A similar story can be told about Merseyside. I do not think that there are any Merseyside MPs here, but—[Interruption.] Sorry, I failed to pick up the accent of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), which I thought was from the north-east—I should have learnt from “Match of the Day” and not made that mistake. I profoundly apologise. As he will know, we have granted enterprise zone status to Liverpool and Wirral Waters. The city deals are extensive. The Liverpool and Liverpool city region deals have led to a £75 million economic development fund. The regional growth fund has a programme of £10 million, leveraging £50 million for private investment and safeguarding 1,200 jobs directly and £35 million for the new container port. Other major investments include the £470 million Government contribution to the Mersey Gateway bridge and the redevelopment of Liverpool Royal hospital.

If we take the position in the round, a great deal of thought has been given to how to support two parts of the country that undoubtedly have real economic needs. I restate our position that we must obviously act lawfully in respect of the Court’s judgment, which we will now do.

Question put and agreed to.

5.22 pm

House adjourned.