Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I commend Community Christmas for the work he describes, and charities around the country will be doing such work this Christmas. I would send a message to everyone in this country with a lone neighbour who

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1159

might spend part of this Christmas alone: it is not a big hassle to invite them round for a drink sometime over the Christmas period. I hope that everybody will think of doing that.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): In view of the appalling news today that NHS discharge delays have hit record levels and that the NHS has missed various targets, including its key cancer target, may we have an urgent debate or an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the Government’s failure to manage the NHS properly and their totally inadequate response in the comprehensive spending review?

Chris Grayling: I reject what the hon. Gentleman says. The NHS is doing a very good job in challenging circumstances, facing rising demand and increased treatment opportunities. We continue to increase the money available to the national health service to deliver those treatments to patients. It is interesting that although we have made that commitment, we have heard no such commitment from Labour, and in Wales, where Labour is in control of the national health service, we see things going backwards.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): It is about time we had a debate on the unsuitability of the opaque and arcane hybrid Bill process in this House, of which HS2 is currently the subject. I have been contacted by many of my constituents who, in good faith and for the first time, are petitioning against the new proposals put forward by the Government in additional provision 4. Instead of those petitions being heard, 75% of those petitioning on the Chilterns have had their locus standi challenged by HS2 and must defend their right to give evidence to the HS2 Committee or lose their right to petition. They will just not be heard. This shows that the hybrid Bill process is complicated, inequitable and frustrating, not only for Parliament and the Members who have been sitting on the Committee for 18 months, but for the very people whose lives are impacted by this horrible project. Can we not, in 2015, find a less cruel and more easily understandable process?

Chris Grayling: I know that my right hon. Friend has been an assiduous representative of her constituency over what I know has been a difficult issue for her and her constituents locally, and I commend her for the work she has done and is doing. She makes an important point about the complexity of the hybrid process. The Procedure Committee or the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee—I see my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), who chairs the latter, returning to the Chamber—might look at this. It is an interesting point about the use of hybrid Bills and how they work, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham may like to talk to our hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex about examining that in his Committee.

Mr Speaker: It is very useful that when a celebrated denizen of the House is referred to, he is just about still in the Chamber.

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab): Many Members will have seen a report in The Guardian today about the exploitative work practices in Sports Direct, which include

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1160

paying less than the national minimum wage and daily body searches of employees, down to the outside of their underwear. May we have a debate, please, in Government time on exploitative work practices and on the failure of national minimum wage enforcement?

Chris Grayling: First, it is illegal to pay less than the minimum wage, so where there is prima facie evidence of that it should be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills will be here on Tuesday for questions and the hon. Lady might like to raise the matter with him.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on raising, during his visit to Iceland at the end of October, the unacceptability of that country carrying out commercial whaling. May we have a debate to put further pressure on those fortunately few countries that still carry on that outdated and cruel practice?

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Those of us who believe in conservation deplore whaling where it takes place. Whales are magnificent creatures. It would be a tragedy if any species of whale were to become extinct. I do not support the hunting of whales and the Prime Minister was right to raise the issue in Iceland. This area of conservation, like many others, should be brought before the House regularly. I hope my hon. Friend will use the various avenues available—perhaps through the Backbench Business Committee—to make sure that this and other conservation issues are continually on the agenda of this House.

Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP): The Leader of the House will recall that on 29 October I raised the issue of the abolition of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission pension scheme and the concerns that many hon. Members have. Despite his assurances, we have heard nothing since from the Government. Will the Government make a statement and inform Members what discussions and decisions have been made on the matter?

Chris Grayling: I always seek to follow up issues raised with Departments. If we have not had a response, I will make sure I chase up again today and get a proper response for the hon. Gentleman.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): Last week the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) led a very well-supported debate in Westminster Hall on the disproportionate effect of changes to the pension age on women born in the 1950s. My podcast on the subject has now been viewed more than 130,000 times, so it appears that this affects a great many more constituents than was envisaged—I urge them to write to their own MP, rather than to me. Given that yesterday the former Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, said that the Government had not been properly briefed and got the decision wrong, will my right hon. Friend urge our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to come to the House to explain the processes behind this and explore what transitional measures might now be taken?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1161

Chris Grayling: This issue has been raised in recent months by Members on both sides of the House, including at business questions. I commend my hon. Friend for the popularity of his podcast; he clearly has a wide influence in these matters. I will ensure that his concerns are drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State, who I am sure will wish to address them when he is next in the Chamber. These are difficult decisions, of course. As life expectancy in this country rises, which is a good thing, that brings particular pressures on the public purse and challenges that we and previous Governments have had to face.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. We are short of time, so we need short questions and short answers, please.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Will the Leader of the House ensure that it is made clear in this afternoon’s debate on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership that: first, TTIP does not present a threat to public services and, if it does, the Government will block it; and secondly, the Government will push for an investor-state dispute settlement to guarantee that Governments will not be sued as a result of policy changes and, if it does not include that, the Government will block it?

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman has put his concerns on the record, and they will have been heard by the Minister sitting next to me, my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry). He is of course welcome to stay for the debate. He is right that there has been a huge amount of inappropriate scaremongering about TTIP; it is being used by left-wing pressure groups as a vehicle to make an anti-Government campaign more widespread. It is about time those groups acted more responsibly and stopped telling people things that are simply not true.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): My constituents in Brownsover saw their GP surgery close on 17 April this year, so many must now make a bus journey to see the doctor. NHS England is in the process of arranging for a new surgery to be developed, but the project has been beset by delays and there is no clear indication of when it might be delivered. Many residents in that part of the constituency have acute health needs. May we have a debate on what can be done to get my constituents the service they deserve?

Chris Grayling: No area can afford to do without GP services for any length of time, particularly in winter. My hon. Friend has made an important point that I suspect will be noticed by those in the health service—they tend to be when they are raised in the House—but the Secretary of State for Health will be here on the first day after the Christmas recess, so I suggest that my hon. Friend raises the matter then if things have not moved forward.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): If there was to be a debate on that deeply bigoted man Trump, would it not be useful to make two points: first, in this country we have legislation against inciting racial hatred, which is a very effective law that I certainly hope will remain; and secondly, and most importantly in many respects, we have effective gun control, which I do not think would do any harm in the United States?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1162

Chris Grayling: It is unusual for me to find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Gentleman, but I am absolutely with him on that. My only concern is that I do not think we should give those remarks the oxygen of publicity, because that helps rather than hinders. The remarks were unacceptable and, in my view, unrelated to the real world. We have a Muslim community in this country who deplore what is happening internationally and play a really important role in our society and economy, and we should value them for what they do.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Christmas is coming, and so is a statement on airport expansion in London, apparently. I heard the Secretary of State for Transport say today that he has not yet made a decision, but Radio 4 has been spreading a wicked rumour that he is about to fudge that decision. Will the Leader of the House please remind the Secretary of State, before he makes the decision, that too much fudge is bad for you?

Chris Grayling: I am sure that the Secretary of State has noted my hon. Friend’s comments. What I can tell him is that no decision has yet been taken—there is plenty of speculation about it in the media—on how to respond to the Airports Commission’s report. Of course, if such a decision is taken, it will be right and proper to have a statement to this House.

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I had the opportunity to meet members of the Heathrow workforce in Committee Room 11 yesterday afternoon. They told us that implementing the Davies commission’s recommendation would benefit not just them but the British economy. I read this morning that the Prime Minister is going to announce today that the decision is going to be delayed for six months. Are the Government more concerned about the outcome of the mayoral election than the benefit to the British economy?

Chris Grayling: I can only say to the right hon. Gentleman that he is just going to have to wait for a decision to be taken. Despite what has been said in the media, I say to the House again that no decision has been taken on how to respond to that report. When it is, we will respond to the House appropriately.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It is now one year since the report by the nuisance calls and texts taskforce, led by Which?, was issued. May we please have a statement on what progress has been made in implementing its recommendations and what remains to be done?

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I will make sure that his concerns are passed on to the relevant Minister and I will seek to get a letter to him, to update him on what is happening.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): Last week during the Syria debate I asked both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary an important question regarding collision warning systems and whether the RAF planes flying over Iraq and Syria were equipped with the latest technology. I got no answer. Therefore, may we have a statement or, indeed, a debate on that very important issue, because our air people deserve the best kit possible so that they can fight in our interest?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1163

Chris Grayling: To reiterate, I committed two weeks ago to having an updated statement on Syria before Christmas. There will be such a statement next week and the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise that specific question again.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Councillor Gloria Opara on Medway Council, who was born in Nigeria, has raised with me the threat that Boko Haram poses to people in Nigeria. May we have an urgent statement on what the Government, along with the international community, are doing to address the terrorist threat in Nigeria and what we are doing to assist the 10.5 million children not in education who are susceptible to radicalisation in that country?

Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, we have been actively engaged in discussions with the Nigerian Government about how we can help them in the struggle against Boko Haram, a deeply unpleasant group that has committed some serious atrocities. In particular, it has committed some appalling atrocities against the Christian community in Nigeria. We should do everything we can to help the Nigerian Government resist what is a very unpleasant movement.

Simon Danczuk (Rochdale) (Lab): South Street nursery in my constituency, which has been rated outstanding by Ofsted for the past nine years, could face closure by Rochdale Council because of massive cuts to its budget by this Conservative Government. Should we not have a debate on how this Government are adversely impacting on childcare provision?

Chris Grayling: The best councils around the country have adapted well to a more challenging financial environment and are continuing to deliver and support high-quality services. I cannot comment on the effectiveness of Rochdale Council; suffice it to say that many other councils have managed to do things differently without that kind of cut. There will be a statement on local government finance between now and the Christmas recess, and the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to raise those concerns with the Secretary of State.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): The spouse of a constituent of mine lives, together with their child, in a part of the world that I will not name but that is very affected by extreme terrorism at the moment, yet she has been denied a visitor’s visa to come and visit her husband with her child in this country. May we have an urgent debate on the denial of visas to family members in such situations?

Chris Grayling: It is always difficult to comment on an individual situation, because I do not know enough about the circumstances. My hon. Friend makes an important point on behalf of his constituent. I am sure the Home Office will look as carefully as it can at the application, but it has to take difficult decisions sometimes. Without knowledge of the circumstances, it is very difficult for me to say whether this is a matter that has been got right or wrong.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Twenty MPs from six parties in this House wrote to the Chancellor before the comprehensive spending review, seeking further resources for those affected by contaminated blood. We have not had a response to that letter. In the

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1164

meeting that we had with the public health Minister, the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), she promised that a statement about the consultation on the resources available would be made to this House before the recess. Can the Leader of the House assure me that there will be an oral statement to this House before we finish next Thursday?

Chris Grayling: Several Departments have made commitments to update the House on a variety of matters before the Christmas recess. I simply give an assurance that every Department is working hard to ensure that it fulfils such commitments.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): I reiterate the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens). Sports Direct has 450 stores nationwide and should be an exemplar as an employer. May we have an urgent debate on how the closure of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs offices will help us to enforce the national minimum wage?

Chris Grayling: The changes in the HMRC structure are simply because, as more and more of its work is done online and more and more of us deal with our tax affairs electronically, maintaining a network of 170 offices does not make sense. We have decided to rationalise the structure to one with more specialist centres, which will enhance, rather than detract from, what HMRC does.

Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South) (SNP): The decision to remove £1 billion from the carbon capture and storage competition is the latest kick in the teeth for the green and low-carbon technology sectors. I have asked the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change several questions to which she claims she does not yet know the answers. May we have a debate or a statement from the Secretary of State so that we can tease out why this disastrous decision was made?

Chris Grayling: I know that the hon. Gentleman has already raised this issue. I am not embarrassed by our record on renewables. During the last quarter—over the summer—more than 25% of our energy generation came from renewables, which is a step change from where we were previously. This Government and their predecessor, the coalition Government, have moved to develop renewable energy in this country, but we do not have unlimited funds and we must use those funds carefully. The Secretary of State has taken the decision not to move away from carbon capture for the long term, but to have a mix of energy generation. The mix that she set out in her statement in this House two weeks ago is the right one. She will be back in the House on 7 January, when he will again have a chance to ask her about his concerns.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Less than 10% of people in this country any longer make anything, but the vibrancy and health of manufacturing is crucial to the future of our country. Tonight, there will be a celebration of manufacturing on the terrace, hosted by the Engineering Employers Federation. I know that we will be able to talk a bit about this in the TTIP debate, but may we have a debate soon about the importance of manufacturing and how we can support that sector in our country?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1165

Chris Grayling: I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of manufacturing. I wish him well with his event this evening. He could certainly bring to the attention of the Backbench Business Committee the need for a general debate on the importance of manufacturing. However, I gently remind him as a Labour Member of Parliament—this is more directed at his Front Benchers than at him—of the popular myth in this country that manufacturing fell sharply as a proportion of our national income under Conservative Governments in the 1980s. In fact, that proportion barely changed at all in the 1980s, but under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown it almost halved.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): Last Tuesday, when the Leader of the House announced the arrangements for the Syria debate, he told us that he was not aware of any “specific reason” why the Prime Minister could not be in the Chamber on Thursday to allow us to have a second day of debate. Is the Leader of the House now in a position to tell us where the Prime Minister was last Thursday, and is it standard practice for him to be kept in the dark about his Cabinet colleagues’ commitments?

Chris Grayling: Surprisingly enough, I do not watch every inch of the Prime Minister’s diary. What I told the House then, and I say again today, is that if a matter is sufficiently important for the Prime Minister to be in the House, he will be in the House. It was important for him to be in the House, and he was here last Wednesday to lead the debate, which lasted for 11 and a half hours. I think that showed this House at its best: it was the right way to do things.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): My constituents Mr and Mrs Peacock are registered with the Telephone Preference Service. However, a company called Real Time Claims continuously harasses them over the phone, and has even cited the Data Protection Act 1998 as a defence for constantly harassing them. To echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), may I ask for a statement in the House about last year’s report on nuisance calls and texts?

Chris Grayling: This is clearly a matter of concern to Members on both sides of the House. I would say to both my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) and the hon. Gentleman that I will talk to the relevant Department and get them a response, before the Christmas recess, about what is happening on that front. He has performed an important service by raising the matter in the House today. I encourage him to talk to the data protection regulators about any individual business that is misbehaving. There are mechanisms to deal with that, and they should be used.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): It is worth reflecting on the comments of the previous Pensions Minister yesterday, who said:

“we made a bad decision”

on the increases in the state pension age. I think that Mr Webb is right and that hundreds of thousands of potential pensioners in this country will be discriminated against. Will the Leader of the House call an urgent debate on this matter, and will the Government reflect on the mistakes that they have made on pension provision in this country?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1166

Chris Grayling: There are plenty of avenues that would allow the hon. Gentleman to call such a debate, such as the Backbench Business Committee or the Adjournment debate system. We have had to take difficult decisions about the pension age, against the background of an ever-ageing population. The previous Government took similar decisions. It is a reality that people will retire later than they would have done in the past. We will continue to have discussions with Members about the detail, but we cannot escape the reality that we face.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House tell me when the next meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee is likely to be? It has not met since the election and it met only once in the year before the election, yet prior to that it met eight times a year on average. I knew that he was keen on Welsh MPs not speaking in English debates, but I had not realised that he had extended that to Welsh debates.

Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman does talk a lot nonsense sometimes. As he knows, I have never sought to exclude Welsh MPs from speaking in English debates. The essence of the reform is that we do not to exclude Welsh or Scottish MPs from speaking in debates on English matters. Of course, the same does not apply the other way around. The Welsh Grand Committee will have a lesser role in the future because we are in the process of devolving substantial additional powers to Cardiff, but I will look at what is happening with the Committee and write to him.

Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP): Yesterday, during the debate on women and the economy, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury responded to a number of queries asking her to validate the figures she was quoting on domestic violence refuges by informing the House that they came from “the online system”. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on the roll-out of that new font of all knowledge that the Government seem to be using?

Chris Grayling: I do not think we need an additional statement, because the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): May we have a debate about Disclosure and Barring Service checks, and about how individuals can be better supported while they wait for those checks to be completed? A number of my constituents have lost out on employment as a result of DBS checks not being carried out on time. I believe that this area would benefit from the attention of Ministers.

Chris Grayling: I have had a similar experience in my constituency. On more than one occasion, I have, as a constituency Member, given the Disclosure and Barring Service a good push to try to get a response for a constituent who was waiting on a job offer. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and I will make sure it is relayed to my colleagues. There is no excuse for putting people in a position where they might lose a job offer because of this process.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): This week, I received three letters from No. 10 Downing Street, all hand delivered. Each letter told me that a written question that I had submitted was being transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. By the time I

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1167

received the letters, I had the answers from the Foreign Office, which demonstrates what an archaic waste of time such letters are. If the Government are serious about cutting the cost of politics, can we have a Government debate on the archaic systems and institutions of this place, and on how we can seriously save money?

Chris Grayling: Many Departments are now responding to questions electronically. It is a bit harsh of the hon. Gentleman to criticise both the team at No. 10 and the Foreign Office for being extremely quick in responding to his questions. We aim to please.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): By capping the number of occupants at five and renting properties rather than buying them, as has happened at Porlock Avenue in Audenshaw in my constituency, Serco, which is contracted by the Home Office, avoids planning and licensing requirements relating to houses in multiple occupation. May we have a debate on asylum dispersal addresses, as this sharp practice risks undermining public confidence and community relations, which none of us wants to see?

Chris Grayling: We will shortly have Communities and Local Government questions. I would never support inappropriate practices, but it might be the case that not putting large numbers of asylum seekers in the same place and instead allowing them to blend into the community is the right thing to do.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1168

Point of Order

12.4 pm

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This morning at Transport Questions, in response to my question about airport expansion, the Secretary of State stated that “when an announcement is to be made, I will make it in the House.” However, it has also been reported that there will be a press conference setting out the Government’s new position later this evening. Is it in order for the Transport Secretary to commit to making a statement in this House first, only to proceed to announce the policy in the press when the House is not sitting? At the very least, would it not be a great discourtesy to the House to do that?

Mr Speaker: The short answer to the hon. Lady is that if the Government have an announcement to make—whether of a final decision, as they see it, on this matter or appertaining to that final decision and describing the process to be undertaken and the specified period in which it will be undertaken—it should be disclosed to the House first so that hon. and right hon. Members can have an opportunity to question the Secretary of State. He is an extremely experienced Minister and a very experienced Member of Parliament, and he is well able, as he regularly demonstrates, to fend for himself at the Dispatch Box. These matters should be treated of in this Chamber and not somewhere else. It is blindingly obvious that that is the wish of the House today, and I feel sure that the Leader of the House will communicate that as necessary.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1169

Backbench Business

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

12.6 pm

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Comprehensive European Trade Agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement and any associated investor-state dispute settlement provisions should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny in the UK and European parliaments.

I am amazed that the Leader of the House, who is just leaving the Chamber, has described opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—TTIP—as a political campaign by left-wing pressure groups. I do not think that the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), or the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), fall into that category. They, along with members of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and many other Committees, are interested in this matter for a variety of reasons. I am pleased that Members from all parties across the House have taken an active interest in this vital issue. I note that the Leader of the House has now left in ignorance, but that is as we would expect.

When I spoke on this subject a year ago, I talked about arbitration problems and big companies focusing on suing democratically elected Governments over laws that might undermine their future profits. Today, in the context of the COP 21 talks in Paris, I want to make the key point to the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise that unless the environmental imperatives coming out of Paris are integrated, in a binding and legally enforceable way, into the EU free trade agreements with Canada and the United States, we will be in danger of sleepwalking into environmental oblivion, irrespective of what comes out of the talks.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): It is right that this motion should come before the House today. Going back to my hon. Friend’s comment about the Leader of the House, how can we trust the Government with industrial relations when we have their anti-trade union Bill going through the House? This should be scrutinised on the Floor of the House, as should the effects on public services, given the presence of American predators who could take advantage of the new arrangements.

Geraint Davies: Yes, that is a key point. I have here a copy of the draft trade and sustainable development chapter of TTIP, and I hope that the Minister has read it. I know that a number of her fellow Ministers have not. It contains references to rights under labour laws, but they would not be legally enforceable. I would like them to be enforceable, because workers’ rights are at risk of erosion as a result of these deals.

I want to make it clear that I am in favour of trade, of growing trade and of the European Union. I do not want any confusion about that. The trade between the EU and the United States is already worth in excess of

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1170

$700 billion, as the Minister will know. The forecasts of the amount by which the economies will grow vary from nothing to about 4%. Let us remember that the forecast for the expansion of economic activity as a result of the single market varied between 4% and 6.5%, but it ended up being 2%. Companies such as Moody’s are saying that it will amount to the equivalent of a cup of coffee per person per day. If you like coffee, perhaps that is worth having, but we need to think about the benefits of trade versus the costs and risks involved.

Christina Rees (Neath) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that Labour MEPs have sought a common position in the EU Parliament on TTIP, and are calling for a full carve-out of all public services, the inclusion of all binding and enforceable workers’ rights, and strong safeguards on food, health and safety measures? That specifically excludes the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which is not democratic, not open to scrutiny, and not independent or fair to states that are being sued by corporations whose members sit on the board.

Geraint Davies: My hon. Friend makes her point well, and I will come on to some of those issues, especially the ISDS.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Geraint Davies: I do not want to give way too many times, but I will do so briefly and then make progress.

Guto Bebb: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I apologise if my voice is not very strong today. On employee rights, I met representatives of the American trade union movement, which sees TTIP as a great opportunity to ensure that the rights we have in Europe are replicated in the US. As an internationalist, I would expect the hon. Gentleman to support such a change.

Geraint Davies: I share that aspiration, but the issue is whether those rights are legally bound and enforceable within TTIP, and they are not. My point is not that we should burn, shoot and get rid of TTIP; we should pull the ISDS teeth out of the wolf, and genetically edit TTIP so that it includes environmental imperatives, enforceable rights at work, and human rights. It should be a blueprint for future global trade, rather than a blueprint for the destruction of environmental and human rights.

Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) rose

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab) rose

Geraint Davies: I will give way first to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), and then to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar), who I know is pro-TTIP, so I will be glad to hear from him.

Margaret Greenwood: I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he agree that the Government and European Commission should heed the call from the British Medical Association to

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1171

exclude the NHS from TTIP, just as the audio-visual sector and healthcare services are excluded from the EU services directive?

Geraint Davies: At a minimum, we should have a copper-bottomed arrangement such as Finland’s, which protects all health—public and private—as well as social care, from any intervention. At the moment those guarantees are not provided, and things are done on a case law basis. If there is private provision somewhere, that would allow an avenue for American contractors to move in.

Mr Spellar: My hon. Friend lays great weight on the ISDS. Can he say how many agreements Britain currently has that have ISDS provisions, how many cases have been brought against the UK, and how many have been successful?

Geraint Davies: My right hon. Friend knows that a large number of ISDS bilaterals are in play, and that no cases have been taken against us. He also knows that exposure to ISDS will increase by about 300%. If his pet dog goes around biting the neighbours, that does not guarantee that it will not bite him. Just because other people die from cigarettes and he has not, that does not mean he will not. We should protect ourselves against the provisions in ISDS, rather than hear those spurious arguments that are normally regurgitated by Government Members.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): On the specific point raised by our hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar)—

Mr Spellar: Right honourable.

Helen Goodman: By our right honourable Friend, this is not about the number of court cases taken; it is about ministerial action being inhibited for fear of those court cases. I had that experience as a Minister, and our right hon. Friend is barking up the wrong tree.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We need short interventions because there is a lot of interest in this debate. The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) is 10 to 15 minutes into his opening speech, and I would not like him to give it all away through interventions.

Geraint Davies: I will resist responding to the comment about barking.

On the ISDS, we know that big companies use the powers available to them to sue democratically elected Governments. For example, the Lone Pine fracking company is suing the Canadian Government for hundreds of millions of dollars because Quebec brought out a moratorium on fracking. In a well-known case, Philip Morris is suing Uruguay and Australia over tobacco packaging. The Dutch insurance company, Achmea, is suing the Slovakians for trying to reverse health privatisation. If those powers are available, corporations will use them to maximise profit. Why should they not? That is what they are there to do. I am not saying that they are immoral, because that is what they do and that is what we expect. Our job is to regulate to ensure that the public interest is put first.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1172

There is also an issue of sovereignty. The comprehensive economic and trade agreement will last for 20 years; some people are worried about the EU, but future Governments would be bound by these rules for 20 years. I think that is wrong, and a lot of Conservative Members have raised that point with me.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Geraint Davies: No, I will not.

Albert Owen: Will he give way on that point?

Geraint Davies: Go on then.

Albert Owen: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I realise that he is getting a little frustrated with the amount of interventions, but mine is brief and specific to the motion. He talks about the scrutiny of this House. Will he explain what method of scrutiny would be used? Would scrutiny be done by a Committee, or would a Minister come to the Dispatch Box, so that the whole House could provide scrutiny?

Geraint Davies: The issue is already being scrutinised by the European Scrutiny Committee, and the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I sit. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee is also interested in it, and the provision will clearly have a widespread impact, so it should be brought before the House. I would like recommendations to be made by this House in an advisory way to the European Parliament, so that it can table amendments. At the moment, everything is being decided by negotiators behind closed doors. That is completely unacceptable, and it will just be a yes/no decision with ratification. CETA was agreed in September 2014, and it sounds as if it is having some sort of legal washing. It will be brought before Members of the European Parliament next spring.

I want to mention regulatory chill because of the pressure and threat of that sort of action. Already, the EU has withdrawn its demands for transparency and clinical data in trials. That means that if a big drugs company does 10 trials and three go wrong—thalidomide, for example—and seven go right, it only has to publish details of the seven that go right. That is worrying, as are the bits and pieces about trade secrets, which clearly undermine and inhibit democracy. There are issues of rights at work, and the problem of CETA being agreed, because that is a Trojan horse that allows all the powers created in the investor-state dispute settlement to come in through the back door and bite our democracy, public services and public finances.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Geraint Davies: No, I will not. I want to dwell on the fact that as we sit here, 20 million people in Beijing are crying because of the environmental damage of trade and the unregulated economic activity that supports it. Meanwhile, in Cumbria, people are flooded because of the impact of climate change, and no one seems to be asking why. We should ensure that future trade agreements for the EU, Canada and the US have enforceable environmental imperatives that constrain corporations from making the situation worse, and that that spreads to China and elsewhere. However, nobody seems to be speaking about elsewhere.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1173

We need trade laws to be trumped by what comes out of Paris in a legally binding and enforceable way, but that is not happening at the moment. I spoke with the Secretary General of the OECD, who was making a speech in Paris when I was there at the conference. He said that a £200 billion subsidy is currently given to fossil fuels and that he was not happy about that. I said, “What about getting the environmental imperatives from Paris as minimum standards into TTIP?” He scratched his head and said, “We haven’t thought about that, but it might be a good idea.” That is where we are, but the EU is asking for an oil and gas pipeline from the US to get shale gas and all sorts of oil over here. What will that do for our carbon footprint?

This is a case of trade on the one hand and the environment on the other, and we need an integrated approach to global sustainable development. I think that the ISDS should be stripped out of TTIP. People say, “What about the investors? They should be protected,” but investors have judicial review and breach of contract, and they already use those rights in public courts. The only difference is that in public courts the public interest is weighed against the commercial interest; on an arbitration panel, it is all about private interest, and public interest and public health issues are not really weighted.

Let me give an example. Tecmed is a waste disposal plant in Mexico that breached new regulations. The Mexican Government decided not to renew the contract because of that breach. Tecmed went to an arbitration panel and Mexico lost the case and had to pay £5 million, plus £8 million court costs. My point is that if the UK requires stronger emissions standards to live up to our promises regarding a 1.5° or 2° increase in temperature, the ISDS could come along and sue us for obliging companies to move forward with those requirements from Paris. Tribunals, as opposed to public law, are more heavily in favour of investor protection than public protection. That is the wrong way around.

Lord Maude said to me, in response to questioning by the European Scrutiny Committee, that companies deserve a bit of compensation if Governments intervene, and that there was nothing wrong with that. The point I am trying to make, however, is not that there should not be compensation. The Minister will be aware of the case in which the Costa Rican Government took back land with natural value—endangered species and habitats—and provided compensation of $1.9 million. The owners of the land took them to an arbitration tribunal, which did not factor in public interest or public value—that had nothing to do with it. It was all about commercial issues and it was decided to fine the Government $16 million. The ISDS favours the private sector, not public interest or natural habitat, so we need to strip it out of TTIP.

Another issue with ISDS is that it can trump national law and previous national law. In the case of Deutsche Bank v. Sri Lanka, the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka brought forward existing laws to stop payment to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank went off to an arbitration panel, an international court, and, even though its arrangements had been made after the national law had been passed, it won the case. This implies for Britain that, if TTIP goes through in its current state, the Climate Change Act 2008 will be trumped by ISDS. That is unbelievable in terms of sovereignty and democracy.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1174

A lot of Conservative Back Benchers are up to speed, but there are a lot of turkeys voting for Christmas on the Government Front Bench. We will not have protection for our famous products, such as pasties, Welsh lamb, Cumbrian sausages and so on. The headline in The Sun was lyrical: “Pasties get a pasting.” We could have Welsh lamb produced in Nebraska.

The TTIP environmental chapter makes reference to Rio and Copenhagen, but it contains nothing that would not allow investors to trump enforcement. There is no binding enforceability. None of the pledges in the environment chapter are carved in stone, and they could be overturned by arbitration panels. Those pledges need to be legally binding, with an enforcement mechanism that goes through national courts.

In a nutshell, I am suggesting that ISDS be removed from TTIP. Article 1 of CETA should say that the provisions in TTIP will be, without reservation, subject to the 2015 Paris conference and subsequent treaty agreements, that TTIP should be consistent and contribute to the targets agreed in Paris and subsequent COP meetings, and that we do not go down the route of harmonising by means of the proposed regulatory co-operative body. Harmonisation of standards is a good thing in principle, but it would all be decided behind closed doors by civil servants subject to lobbying from industry. That is not something we want.

Finally, there are a lot of things wrong with TTIP that we need to change, but the motion relates simply to scrutiny. I am not for abandoning TTIP. We need a blueprint for future global trade. We need to integrate environmental imperatives. We need to make sure legal rights and human rights are enforceable, and show leadership on global trade that provides a sustainable, fair and equitable world.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. There will be an eight-minute limit on speeches.

12.24 pm

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on securing the debate and on raising some very important points that this House should consider seriously.

As the last Member in this House, I think, who was involved in negotiating a successful international trade round—the Uruguay round, when I was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry—I am extremely in favour of free trade. I believe there is a strong case for unilateral free trade, although that is not easy to sell to the electorate. A priori, therefore, I approach the TTIP agreement from a position of strong support. I am very suspicious of critics of TTIP who are often simply against trade, simply against markets, simply against choice, simply against business and simply against America.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Lilley: I will not, because the hon. Gentleman may find in a minute that I have answered his question.

I am especially hostile to all those people who press the button on 38 Degrees campaigns that relate to anything against trade and business. I was rather surprised, therefore, to find myself sympathising with four people

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1175

who appeared in my surgery and announced, to a groan from me, that they were members of 38 Degrees and had concerns about TTIP. They actually raised some very important points that resonated with me from my experience of past negotiations.

I am, of course, totally in favour of removing tariffs, but that is a relatively minor aspect of what TTIP is about. Over the years, we have been hugely successful in removing tariffs and straightforward barriers to trade. They averaged 40% back when the general agreement on tariffs and trade was set up. They were still around 15% when I was negotiating. The tariffs now between the United States and Europe average less than 2%. Half of all goods traded between the two continents are entirely tariff-free. That means, of course, that those that are subject to tariffs can be higher. On clothing, the tariffs are up to 30% and on cars the US levies a tariff of 2.5%. The EU, under the influence no doubt of German car manufacturers, levies a tariff of 10% on imports of cars from America.

Abolition of the remaining tariffs is worth having and would be the final success of GATT. TTIP goes far beyond that, however, and into harmonisation of regulation, rules on investment and rules on procurement. It is true that those sorts of rules can, either by intent or by accident, be used to inhibit trade. We should avoid using them in that way and we should seek, if we can, agreements to anti-discrimination rules so that neither in the business of investment nor procurement would either the United States or the EU be allowed to discriminate against firms from the other side in these matters.

My concern, and the concern of my constituents who declare themselves to be members of 38 Degrees, is that we may be creating a bureaucratic and legal process that may escape proper democratic control and may be subject to improper corporate influence. It is also symptomatic, although this is the least important point, of bureaucracies that perpetuate their existence even when the task they were established to do is largely complete. Literate Members of this House—we are all literate—will remember Dickens describing the circumlocution office, whose chief, Lord Tite Barnacle

“had died at his post with his drawn salary in his hand”

defending the existence of an organisation that no longer had any need to exist. Actually, because we have succeeded on tariff negotiations, we should be scaling down, not up, the international bureaucracy and not giving it far more undemocratic powers.

Even during the Uruguay round, I had my concerns. First, I was concerned about accountability to this House. The negotiations were so complex that it was difficult for the House to hold Ministers to account, and it was easy for Ministers to present a fait accompli to this House and say they had achieved the best compromise.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the bodies scrutinising TTIP very assiduously will be the US Congress? It would not let things go that it felt put their own people at a disadvantage.

Mr Lilley: I would like to hear my hon. Friend say that this House is going to exercise democratic control rather than relying on the American Congress.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1176

Partly because Ministers were so little accountable to this House on this issue—I cannot remember having to respond to any debates on it—officials were very reluctant to be accountable to Ministers. In almost every other area where I was in Government, I thought that British officials were wonderful and that the caricature of them in “Yes Minister” was false, but where an international bureaucracy was involved and there was limited democratic control, they were extremely reluctant to respond to Ministers’ requests about what they were up to or to explain what compromises they were making. I had to argue very hard and strongly to reassert my control over officials. Ultimately, of course, it is up to Ministers to do that.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend think that TTIP will be in any way accountable to this House? It does not look as though it will be.

Mr Lilley: There are aspects where I think we are in danger of unnecessarily handing over unaccountable powers, and we should be very careful about doing so.

Negotiations, then and now, are aggravated by the fact that we are negotiating at second hand through the EU and at arm’s length. I campaigned for continued membership of the EU in 1975, and I have accepted that we have to make some sacrifices to have a common market, but we should be aware that we have only second-hand control. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) thinks that we should probably rely more on the American Congress.

Jeremy Lefroy: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Lilley: No, I am sorry. I know that I am sadly misrepresenting my hon. Friend.

All these problems are comparatively easy when we are just dealing with the abolition of tariffs. When we are handing to international bureaucracies and legal tribunals wide areas of regulation, investment rules and procurement, the problems may be greater.

My other concern about bureaucracies is that they may be unduly influenced by corporate lobbying. The less responsive they are to elected Members of this House, the more likely they are to be responsive to corporate lobbying. I am not one of those who believes in the dogmatic Marxist view that the world is run by a conspiracy of corporations and big business, nor that big business always wants to deregulate. In truth, the people in bureaucracies and big business have a common world view and believe that they should run things collectively with as little interference from democratically elected politicians as possible.

Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP): Will the right hon. Gentleman take an intervention?

Mr Lilley: I will not, I am afraid.

Moreover, big business has a natural interest in regulation being used as a barrier against small businesses trying to enter the market or new businesses trying to innovate.

We should be very careful about creating international bureaucracies outside the control of democrats that may prove less responsive to elected Governments but more vulnerable to corporate regulation. The hon. Member for Swansea West raised the specific issues of fracking

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1177

and GM foods. I am very strongly in favour of fracking, and very strongly in favour of allowing GM to be used; I happen to have the main research institute on that front in my constituency. Ultimately, these decisions should be made democratically. To me, it is far more important that democracy should prevail than that some international bureaucracy should support my prejudices on fracking and GM, as it probably would. It is up me and people like me in this House to persuade the majority of Members and the majority of the public that something is right, and not to say, “Let’s support an international bureaucracy because it is going to take the decision out of our hands and reach what we think is the right view.”

I am unequivocally in favour of removing tariffs. I would welcome agreement under TTIP to anti-discrimination rules whereby Europe and America agree that they will not discriminate against foreign companies in procurement and investment. However, I would be very careful about creating a self-perpetuating international bureaucracy and handing to it powers that are largely out of the control of elected representatives and too much under the influence of corporate lobbying. At the end of the day, democracy is more important even than free trade.

12.34 pm

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): I declare an interest as the chairman of the all-party European Union-United States trade and investment group and as an unashamed supporter of trade. Over the centuries, trade has been a huge benefit to this country, particularly to the west midlands, which grew on the back of trade. Indeed, the west midlands is currently the only region of the UK that has a positive trade balance with China. Equally significantly, trade has been the engine by which hundreds of millions of people around the world have been lifted out of poverty. We need only look at the growth of China. I will come back to some aspects of that, as they were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies). Hundreds of millions of people in China have seen their lives changed dramatically as a result of trade.

In debating these trade deals, there have historically been those in this House and in British politics who are opposed to trade. This is not a recent argument.

Kelvin Hopkins: My right hon. Friend will know that all the nations that have achieved dramatic improvements in their economies have done so with a degree of protection. The Chinese have used a massive devaluation of their currency against the western currencies behind which they have seen their economy develop rapidly. Protectionism works.

Mr Spellar: I am pleased that my hon. Friend wants us to move towards a more rules-based system that will enable us to develop more effectively. Trade has worked in that regard, and I am glad that he concedes that.

A great mythology is being developed around this. When I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West how many agreements the UK has had that involved ISDS, he was reluctant to reveal that the answer is 94. How many cases have been taken against the UK on that basis? My understanding is two. How many of those

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1178

cases have been successful? My understanding is none. Mention is made once again of the very long-running Philip Morris so-called case. It is absolutely true that Philip Morris said it was lodging a case. Has it gone anywhere? Has it stopped the Australian Government taking action? Of course it has not. One of the more regularly cited cases is that of Slovakia’s health insurance system. We are often told that a Dutch insurance company managed to secure substantial damages from the Slovakian Government. That is true, because the case was about whether, under the existing contract, it could repatriate its profits to Holland. In a second case, which everybody seems to forget, the Slovakian Government won, and also got costs, because the tribunal held that the company was not empowered to intervene in the democratic processes of a sovereign state.

I particularly take issue with the Government over the fact that while the Leader of the House might talk about left-wing groups campaigning with scare stories, Ministers will not take on the myths so that we can get back to arguing about the issues that my hon. Friend rightly raised. The Government just hide away engaging in the negotiations and will not take these issues on.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): If ISDS has been used so little, and given the concerns that have been expressed by all sorts of groups, particularly in relation to the NHS, why does the right hon. Gentleman think it is so important to have it as part of TTIP, which is an arrangement that, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), I would in general strongly support? ISDS appears to be the sticking point for a very large number of people.

Mr Spellar: I would strongly hold to that. I am just saying that ISDS is not the great problem that people are claiming. The hon. Gentleman mentions the NHS. The European Commissioner wrote to the former Trade and Investment Minister about the impact of TTIP on the NHS, saying:

“Member States do not have to open public services to competition from private providers, nor do they have to outsource to private providers.”

It is a decision for this Government, and nothing to do with any trade deal. She continued:

“Member States are free to change their policies and bring back outsourced services back into the public sector whenever they choose to do so, in a manner respecting property rights (which in any event are protected under UK law)”.

Geraint Davies: Does my right hon. Friend agree, though, that the essential difference is that ISDS tribunals are held in private, the primary focus being the investor and commercial and trading law, whereas a public court involves the public interest and transparency, which is intrinsically better? There are lots of cases where these big companies have claimed enormous damages, but I will not go into that. This is about the intrinsic shape of the system.

Mr Spellar: My hon. Friend and I will have to discuss this matter later. The problem is that such a process would require the creation of a supranational court, unless there was an agreement on reciprocity between the Supreme Court and the European Court, which might cause problems with Conservative colleagues.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1179

There was very little controversy over CETA and the discussions with the Canadians, or those with the Koreans and all the other countries with which the EU has conducted trade talks, until we began discussions with the United States, which touched many people’s nerve endings and neurons.

Andrew Percy: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that if we scratch beneath much of the opposition, we find blatant anti-Americanism. Does he agree that it is deeply offensive to the Canadian Government to describe CETA as a Trojan horse for TTIP, as if “little Canada” were doing the American’s dirty work? That is the implication, and it is deeply offensive to Canada, a country with standards of protection that go beyond our own in many areas.

Mr Spellar: I thank the hon. Gentleman for a point well made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West then talked about China and, interestingly, about the environmental situation there. If the EU and the US do not do a trade deal to enshrine the current free trade and democratic liberal order, the Chinese will be the ones setting the parameters of world trade, and he has rightly identified that they might be much less concerned about issues such as workers’ rights and the environment.

With regard to the Canadian deal, my hon. Friend raised concerns about food and the implications for geographic indicators—Welsh lamb and so on. In fact, one of the great attractions not only for farmers in the UK but for framers across Europe, particularly southern Europe, is the provision for geographic indicators; and, to be frank, one of the attractions for Canada and the United States is the ability to sell GM, so a trade of GM for GI might well come out of these talks and be of advantage.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Spellar: Unfortunately, the clock is running.

As I indicated earlier, the Leader of the House talked about scaremongering by the far left, and we have received emails again from 38 Degrees, which will no doubt be castigating me again on Facebook. Interestingly, its standard email this time had a link to a pamphlet by John Hilary of War on Want published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. I excuse the ignorance of Conservative Members, but a number of Opposition colleagues might be aware of the dissident Communist Rosa Luxemburg, if not necessarily of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and its deep links with Die Linke in Germany, the far left party that grew out of the old East German Communist party. There is a lot to be said against the old East German Communist party, but it was pretty good at propaganda and agitation. There are valid arguments to be made, but hon. Members must be clear about the driving force behind the campaign.

Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) touched on an area alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West: the European Scrutiny Committee. It was the neuralgic reaction of some Conservatives to anything involving the EU. Let us be frank: one of the key enablers of our conducting trade negotiations around the world is our membership of the EU. It enables us to negotiate through

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1180

the combined strength of the EU, contrary to the views of Mr Farage, who believes we could somehow negotiate trade deals on our own. When we campaign next year to remain members of the EU, we will find that many of the arguments being made against TTIP reflect the arguments against the EU. In the modern world, there will be some trade of sovereignty for effectiveness and relevance, and that is why we should support the agreement.

12.45 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the passionate speech of the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr Spellar). I apologise to the House for my voice; I hope it lasts for eight minutes, but if not I might sit down early.

I declare an interest: I am the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on European Union-United States Trade and Investment. I am proud to stand here in support of TTIP. This is another example of how elements in British society are trying to close down debate. In August, my daughter, who is 14, left our house to do her paper round. She came back in and said there were 20 people picketing outside my house because I was the secretary of the all-party group. They were basically accusing me of wanting to kill people by selling off the NHS. If we are to have a debate about this, we should at least make it an honest debate and avoid intimidation. We have a duty to debate it openly and transparently, and intimidation has no part in that.

This is the fourth time we have debated TTIP in the Chamber. The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) has secured two debates, and the all-party group has secured another two.

Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): Is not a danger that this debate is premature? The proposed agreement has not been reached, and before it could be ratified it text would have to be distributed to the 28 member states and this House, where proper scrutiny could be applied?

Guto Bebb: My hon. Friend makes an important point, but I do not think the content of the agreement is the issue; the issue is an anti-free trade agenda hiding behind TTIP. It is not a protest against a proposed trade deal; it is an attack on free trade.

We have heard about the so-called secrecy of the negotiations. It is true that the final text has not been released, but all the proposals are available online. If any Member or their researcher were to google “TTIP”, they would find the text of the negotiations. This is probably the most open trade negotiation we have ever entered into as part of the EU. When I hear these accusations of secrecy, therefore, I wonder whether people know they can google the issues being debated. The all-party group has held open meetings in the House, attended by 100 to 150 people, on the effect of the proposed treaty on the automotive sector, public services, textiles, and food and drink producers. To claim there has been a lack of discussion in the House is to make a false argument and to play into the hands of protestors who are against not the treaty per se but the concept of free trade.

Jonathan Reynolds: I am finding this debate quite interesting. I agree with the pro-trade sentiments of the all-party group on TTIP, but, to echo the comments of

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1181

the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), should not a decision about whether we accept hormone-treated beef in the UK lie outside the remit of a trade organisation and be a decision for the House?

Guto Bebb: As somebody who represents a Welsh constituency with a significant number of lamb producers, I want to see Welsh lamb offered for sale in north America, which is not currently the case. If the way to get that product into the north American market is through a European trade agreement with north America, I am willing to look at the detail of that agreement. I stress again that the remit for the negotiations was agreed by 28 member states of the EU. There have been two motions in the European Parliament. The EU trade negotiator has been to the House twice to explain the EU’s remit and how it is developing the agreement. So there has been an opportunity to engage, and the final agreement will be scrutinised as well. If there is concern about some of the concessions made, perhaps on a quid pro quo basis, those issues could be identified at a later stage.

It is important to address head on the so-called threat to the national health service—and I have to say that it is a so-called threat. I hope that every Member who speaks in this debate has read the detailed, three-page letter from the European trade negotiator to the Health Committee on 11 December 2014, which makes it very clear that there is no possibility of an impact on our health service, or on public services more widely for that matter, as a result of the TTIP agreement. It categorically states that

“all publicly funded public health services are protected in the EU trade agreements, and this approach will not change for TTIP.”

That brings us back to the crux of the issue and the point raised by the chairman of the all-party group—that the debate seems to be about the fact that we will be making an agreement with the United States of America. Let me state clearly as the secretary of the all-party group that I have had literally thousands of e-mails from all parts of the United Kingdom accusing me of all sorts of skulduggery in relation to this proposed trade deal. I was quite impressed by the fact that the people e-mailing me believed that I had far more power than I have ever had as a Back-Bench MP.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab) rose

Geraint Davies rose

Guto Bebb: I will not take interventions.

The important point is that not a single e-mail was ever sent to me about the deal with Canada, unfortunately described, in my view, as a Trojan horse for TTIP.

Mr Andrew Smith rose

Guto Bebb: No, I will not take an intervention.

Not a single e-mail was sent about that agreement, so it difficult not to conclude that this is not about trade and not about the health service, but about a latent anti-western, anti-US agenda, which I find disreputable.

Mr Smith rose

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1182

Guto Bebb: No, I will not take an intervention on that issue. The point needs to be made and it has been made.

We are clearly having a dishonest debate on this issue. Claims have been made that have not been substantiated and we have had accusations of secrecy that do not stand up to scrutiny. It is clear, too, that issues are being raised about ISDS, but I argue that that case was demolished by the right hon. Member for Warley. The hon. Member for Swansea West has offered no explanation of why not one of the 94 agreements has been the subject of any complaint to my inbox; we seem to have these concerns only because TTIP is a deal with the US.

I have now dealt with some of the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Swansea West, but I think we should also look at some of the opportunities that will come from TTIP. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) was right that the tariff barriers are comparatively low. It is clear from talking to regulators on both sides of the Atlantic—the European Union and the US—that the regulations are often not specifically there for the safety of the public in the US or the EU; they are there as a means to offer a protectionist stance for some industries.

It makes very little sense, for example, for our booming and hugely successful exporting car industry to undertake a crash test that is completely different in the US from that in the EU. The crash test is different because the regulations are different, and the effect is to add over £600 to the cost of Mini Cooper. The dashboard has to be changed to accommodate the mechanism for the airbags necessary to comply with US test regulations. Nobody believes that a crash in the US is any different from one in the EU, but the test is different—at huge cost to the car industry. If the TTIP agreement were to be secured and some of the regulatory burdens removed, there would be potential for a 7% growth in exports.

Similarly, when we talk about the need for a manufacturing-led recovery, it is difficult to believe the concerns of Labour Members when the opportunity arises to get rid of some of the counter-productive and anti-competitive regulatory burdens but they are not willing to work with manufacturing sectors to reduce them.

More importantly, the regulatory burdens are extremely unfair on small and medium-sized enterprises. Larger companies have the capacity to deal with the regulatory burdens in the US and subsequently to deal with the regulatory burdens in the European Union. The small businesses in my constituency have world-class products to offer, but are not in a position to sell them to the US because the regulatory burdens provide a barrier to their potential to trade. Small businesses that send packages online through the internet often find themselves in difficulty when dealing with the US because they do not know whether the rules and regulations applying to imports through the postal system into the US would be the same as they are in Europe. Again, larger businesses—the Amazons of this world—can cope quite easily with those challenges, but smaller businesses operating in my constituency cannot.

To talk about this agreement being one for large multinationals is to miss the point. The point of the agreement is to reduce the regulatory burden, which large companies are quite happy to impose because it closes the opportunity for small businesses to compete against them.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1183

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Guto Bebb: No. I have only a minute left.

The fact that I have a drinks producer in my constituency who is unable to put in a second production line in order to get the correct bottle size is a classic example of the way in which regulations work against small businesses and to the advantage of larger businesses.

Finally, when it comes to being an MP from Wales, let me say categorically that the denial of Welsh lamb from my constituency to the US consumer is utterly disgraceful. The agricultural sector is broadly clearly supportive of this treaty. Yes, we need to scrutinise it; yes, we need to ensure that the House has a say in the agreement; but we should try to grab the opportunity for growth in all parts of the United Kingdom, and not least in Wales.

12.56 pm

Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab): Let me say to the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) that, irrespective of his views on TTIP, hon. Members and their families should have the right to security in their own homes. If he has been lobbied in his own home by protestors, I entirely deplore it.

I am in favour of free trade, which should be a good thing. It should create wealth and provide innovation in relation to jobs and markets, and it should promote existing services and products in new markets. I do not believe, however, that the proposed TTIP deal is about free trade; it is about increasing the dominance of several large globalised corporations that have no loyalty to any one particular country. Their loyalty is only to the next quarterly figures on Wall Street or the City of London.

We have talked about public services, and I believe that they will continue to be under threat unless we get a categoric response that they have been taken out. It is all being dealt with in secret, of course, so we cannot secure such a categoric response.

Let me deal with the investor-state dispute settlement, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) provided some interesting figures. There is a fundamental principle about ISDS that undermines its entire existence. We rightly preach the rule of law and democracy to the developing countries, but it would seem that it does not apply to large globalised corporations. However much I disagree with Conservative Members and however much I deplore some of their policies, the bottom line is that their party won the general election and I respect their democratic right to take its programme through Parliament. As I say, however, that democratic right does not apply to large globalised corporations.

If by some fluke on Friday night I win the Euro Lottery and buy myself a Ferrari or a Lamborghini—

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Why not buy British?

Christian Matheson: Indeed, I shall buy myself a nice, top-of-the-range Range Rover. If the Government reduce the speed limit on the motorways to 50 mph, am I allowed to sue them because they have taken away my

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1184

enjoyment in driving that car? It is exactly the same with TTIP. If the Government choose to change the law, it is their right to do so, and there should be no caveats for large corporations.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): I am glad that my hon. Friend is addressing the issue of ISDS, which is great concern. It was introduced, we were told, to give security to investors against weak legal systems in developing countries. Whether or not that is true—my hon. Friend has just made a good point—I do not believe that we have a weak legal system in this country, despite what the Government have done. The idea that the private law rights of multinationals should be put above the system that applies here is disgraceful.

Christian Matheson: My hon. Friend makes a good point, but I now wish to give an example of the perils that ISDS may bring. It involves another regime, but it could easily be transcribed into TTIP. Veolia has sued the Egyptian Government for alleged breach of a contract for waste disposal in the city of Alexandria on the basis of a bilateral agreement between France and Egypt.

At a time when Egypt is in a vulnerable and uncertain position politically, we should be helping it to develop democratic structures. When the Egyptian Government introduce a minimum wage that will probably benefit most ordinary Egyptians, we should support their action, but apparently Veolia has sued the Egyptian Government for taking that action. How stupid and short-sighted is it to sue the Egyptian Government and lower the standards of living of ordinary Egyptian workers at a time when we are trying to persuade Egypt that Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood are not the way forward? This is an example of a western corporation undermining the well-being of ordinary people. That is what ISDS does: it enshrines the rights and priorities of globalised corporations over and above those of ordinary people, and the results could be catastrophic.

Mr Spellar: As I made clear earlier when I mentioned the Philip Morris case, lodging a case and winning a case are not one and the same thing, but my hon. Friend may be right. Has anything happened to the Veolia case?

Christian Matheson: I believe that it is still going through the process, but it is the principle on which the case is based that concerns me: the principle that corporations should have their own private mechanism for resolving disputes, rather than adopting the accepted legal procedures of the country in question.

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab): Does not the ISDS system effectively constitute a private court staffed by private judges with private lawyers, based on private law for private profits?

Christian Matheson: What a shame that I am not as articulate as my hon. Friend. She has hit the nail on the head. ISDS is a mechanism that undermines the rule of law by giving a separate system to large globalised corporations and taking away from them any sense of responsibility to elected Parliaments such as ours, or to countries like Egypt where we may be hoping to foster and develop democracy.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1185

Andrew Percy: May I just even things up? We are, I am sure, in the business of facts here. Far from ISDS being for the benefit of private corporations, it is a Government mechanism, agreed by Governments largely for the benefit of Governments.

Christian Matheson: I do not agree. I think that it is largely for the benefit of private corporations. The hon. Gentleman and I will have to differ.

I want an economic system that works for the people, not one in which the people work for the system. TTIP will enshrine the dominance of global corporations, which have driven down wages, moved jobs into areas where they think they can pay people less, increased personal and family insecurity, and—let us be clear about this—made tax-dodging into an art form.

Rachael Maskell: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Christian Matheson: I am about to end my speech, but I will always give way to my good friend the Member for York Central.

Rachael Maskell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Does he share the concern that the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations has expressed about the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has brought about the loss of so many jobs and has had such a negative impact on the American economy?

Christian Matheson: My hon. Friend and I have known each other for a good few years, and we were both involved in the creation of one of the first global trade unions, along with American unions. The United States was mentioned earlier, and I am certainly not anti-United States, but my contacts in the American trade union movement are absolutely opposed to TTIP because they believe that their jobs and their terms and conditions—[Interruption.] The Minister says, from a sedentary position, that that is not true. I should like to know when she last spoke to any American trade unions, because I speak to them quite regularly.

I believe that the interests of the Conservative party are now enshrined in the large global corporations and the City of London. I believe that we could and should design a trade deal along the lines of TTIP that could benefit ordinary people, but TTIP is not that trade deal.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) talked about the European Union. One thought has occurred to me, although perhaps I am wrong; no, surely not. TTIP could well be a Trojan horse for those who would have us leave the European Union. The EU, for all its faults, imposes social, economic and environmental constraints on corporations. TTIP would provide the free trade deal that is sought by so many of those who want us to leave the EU, without any of the social and environmental benefits.

Guto Bebb: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Christian Matheson: I am about to sit down.

I worry about the possibility of a ready-made deal that would enable us simply to leave the European Union, withdraw from the requirement for social, environmental and employment protections, and then sign up to something

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1186

that would involve no such protections. That is my fear, and I shall be watching the debate on the European Union carefully and with not a little suspicion.

1.6 pm

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): I thank the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) for enabling us to debate this issue. I am very glad that we are having the debate, and that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise will be responding to it.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the motion. While I think that we need accountability when it comes to one of the biggest trade deals in history—if not the biggest—and that the House should provide that accountability, I also think that few significant issues in politics today have been so poorly considered in the public realm. That may be due to a lack of knowledge for which, perhaps, we are all responsible. We, as parliamentarians, should play our part in trying to inform and educate the public as well as listening to them, so that everyone in the country understands the true nature of this deal. However, there has also been a huge amount of misinformation and distortion on the part of certain groups, and that has led to a general sense of concern. Like other Members, I have received hundreds of emails and letters about this issue over the last year or so. I believe that the concern is unnecessary, because there is far less to fear than those groups suggest, but a more important consideration is that it obscures, purposefully, the huge opportunity that this deal presents to all of us.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I think that the hon. Gentleman put his finger on it when he used the phrase “far less to fear”. He said that people did not understand the deal, but that is because it has not been properly explained to them. Some of them fear that there is a Trojan horse, but whether there is or not, we cannot move forward without consensus among the public, whether they are worried about jobs, about the environment, or about the precise contents of TTIP. If people do not understand something like this in a representative democracy such as ours, what can we do?

Robert Jenrick: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. That is why I am pleased to see that the Minister is present, and why I was pleased when, on the occasion of our last debate on this subject—in 2014, I believe—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) responded on behalf of the Government. I want more Ministers to convey the case for TTIP to the public, engaging in a genuine, informed debate, and trying to sell the deal in a rational way. At present, it is being led by groups who have come out with some pretty poor-quality public discourse.

Some of the emails that I received this week were fairly ill informed, to say the least. I suspect that they were generated by 38 Degrees. They were all the same, apart from the fact that the adjectives varied: the deal was variously described as dodgy, dangerous, evil and sinister. There could not be a more pathetic quality of debate. Let me say to those behind the emails, “For goodness sake, have the strength of your convictions: raise the quality of debate and argue rationally, rather being so immature.”

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1187

The Government must lead the debate. They must support a project which I believe has huge potential to build transatlantic links to bring Britain and Europe closer to America, and to create a huge and important new free trade area and a myriad opportunities for jobs and growth. We are not necessarily talking about large corporations; as was rightly pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), this is about businesses both large and small. Only last week, I met representatives of some businesses that will benefit from this kind of deal. They were not large corporations, but small and medium-sized businesses that were trying to make a living and create jobs.

Mr Andrew Smith: What is the hon. Gentleman’s answer, however, to the concerns raised by his right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) about the real dangers TTIP presents of disproportionate corporate power being used to manipulate a bureaucracy which is not democratically accountable?

Robert Jenrick: I will come on to that now, because there are a few specific points I want to make, some of which have already been raised by other Members. One is about healthcare. This has been a political football on both sides of the House for far too long. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy said, the Health Committee wrote to the negotiators and received an incredibly comprehensive reply, which I would recommend to any Member. I have sent it to every constituent who has written to me about TTIP. I am not a friend of the EU—I am a Eurosceptic—so it is unusual for me to say that this is one of the most straightforward, comprehensive, honest answers I have ever seen from a European bureaucrat. I say this to other Members: “Please, if you haven’t read this, read it and send it to your constituents, because it does more to debunk the myths than anything else I have seen on this debate.” I will not rehash it, but I think it is incumbent on every Member of this House to read it and to appreciate how comprehensive it is and that it demolishes all those myths and scaremongering.

Overall, suppliers are already able to offer hospital services and health-related professional services through a commercial presence in the United Kingdom. The important thing for everyone who engages in the provision of health services and healthcare through companies in this country is that they have to comply with UK standards and regulations in the same way as British healthcare providers do. Those standards will remain under the sovereignty of this country and this Parliament, regardless of TTIP.

I appreciate that there is genuine concern about ISDS, but again I think it is fairly ill informed. I was a lawyer and the first case I worked on as a trainee solicitor many years ago was for a small British investor that had used a bilateral investment treaty very similar to this one to invest in eastern Europe. This perfectly legitimate UK company had seen its licence revoked illegitimately by that Government, and this small investor was able to use that treaty to get its money back and win justice. This is not about large corporations exploiting the system; it is about all investors around the world, including our own businesses being able to hold other Governments to account and ensure that they do not make arbitrary and poor decisions that negatively affect British companies.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1188

As we have heard, ISDS is not a novelty. This is not some new threat that has recently emerged. These clauses have been put into most trade deals for years and years. I have heard the familiar examples of odd cases and inactions around the world, but these clauses have not had the effect that has been described in the media. As we have heard, 3,400 of these clauses have been inserted in trade deals globally. The EU and its members have 1,400 such clauses in various trade deals, and the UK has 94 in our existing bilateral treaties. We have twice been challenged and we have never lost a case under an ISDS.

What we have done, however—this is an important point that has not been made—is successfully bring claims against other countries. We have had slightly more success in that regard because the point of an ISDS is to underline the value of the total agreement and make sure no individual investor or business can be disadvantaged by another Government or union of Governments breaking the obligations they have entered into and negatively affecting our own businesses and investors, large and small.

It has been said that these treaties have primarily been used in developing countries, such as in the case I just mentioned, where potentially the legal system was not as good as ours or that of the United States, but of course although the US does have a very good legal system, it is a very expensive legal system where cases can take a long time. I actually think that this would be a very useful device for our small and medium-sized companies.

Similarly, there are states in the EU—some southern European countries, for instance—where American investors I have met and spoken to over the years would be very reluctant to sail into if they had to rely entirely on taking matters to the legal processes of those states to challenge the bona fide of local officials in respect of whether they were complying with the agreement. On both sides of the Atlantic, although there would be very few cases, I think they would generally be beneficial.

I was going to talk about transparency, but nobody could have put that point better than my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy, and of course a degree of secrecy and confidentiality is important, because the US has very good negotiators in trade talks, and we want our negotiators in the EU, which is in a difficult position being a union of 28 nation states and Governments, to be in the best possible position in these talks, and not simply give everything away. This is one of the more transparent trade deals we have seen, and certainly one of the most transparent the EU has done, and the commissioners are trying to be as forthcoming as possible.

This free trade deal is, as we have heard from at least some Members, a huge opportunity. The United States is not a threat to us; it is the UK’s single biggest export destination. Some 17% of our exports go there, and it is important for a whole range of our sectors, such as aerospace, as we have heard about, the creative industries, and the luxury goods industry. The UK is a world leader in that, and America is home to more affluent households with disposable incomes of more than $300,000 than any other country. It is a huge market, therefore.

Only last Friday I visited a business in my constituency that is trying to put hearing loops into the New York metro, but is having to spend thousands of pounds to meet the various and complex regulatory burdens involved.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1189

Richard Arkless (Dumfries and Galloway) (SNP): On that point, would the hon. Gentleman try to persuade his Government colleagues that the US should lift the ban on haggis, and would he welcome that?

Robert Jenrick: That is a very good point and I certainly would welcome that. I want to see British businesses from all parts of the United Kingdom getting into those markets and creating jobs.

We have heard that tariff barriers are now quite low—down to around 3%—but it is the non-tariff barriers that need to be pushed aside for the benefit of businesses like those in my constituency, and TTIP offers a huge opportunity to create the jobs and growth of the future. It is a massive potential win not just for our constituents and businesses, but for humanity as it offers an opportunity to bring the west together to protect our economic and national security.

1.17 pm

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): Like most of the other speakers in this debate, I am instinctively in favour of trade. Scotland has got a fantastic story to tell given the world-class quality of so many of our goods and services. We want to be able to sell them around the world, and I think that those around the world want to be able to buy them without restrictions. We should instinctively support the principle of free trade, but completely unregulated free trade is not an unmixed blessing.

We have to ask ourselves who ultimately free trade is there to benefit. Is it there to benefit a handful of major corporations, is it there to benefit a handful of well-placed people with the ear of particular Governments, or is it there to benefit the citizens who produce the wealth for all those businesses? I know where my loyalties would lie, and at the moment I am not at all convinced that free trade as envisaged in TTIP is going to give the benefits to the correct place.

We should remember that what we are being asked to agree today is not that TTIP is a good idea or a bad idea, but that TTIP should, before being set in law, be brought back and properly scrutinised and debated in this Parliament, and I would argue in the Parliaments of other EU member states as well. I find it ironic that the party whose leader is going around Europe right now arguing for better protection for the alleged sovereignty of this place in dealings with the EU also seems to be saying to us that we can trust EU officials to sign us up to trade deals and we do not need to bring the deal back to this Chamber or anywhere else in this place for it to be considered and scrutinised. Yes, there will eventually be a binding vote in the European Parliament, but there should be a proper, well-informed debate and a vote in this Parliament at the very least to give a clear indication to UK MEPs as to how we would like them exercise their vote.

Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest concerns about the whole process is the lack of transparency? Nobody knows exactly what is happening.

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): It is on the internet!

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1190

Peter Grant: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I hear the comment that it is all on the internet, but I hope that when the Government respond, or when someone responds on their behalf, they will be able to explain the following to us: if it has been on the internet and has been so widely available for so long, why is it that MEPs have been given the opportunity to scrutinise it for only the past week? That is being done not in an open debate, but in a closed room where they are allowed to take handwritten notes but are not allowed to take photocopies of that document out of that room to show to their constituents or to anybody else. Why is the EU insisting on that degree of secrecy if the whole thing is already widely available on the internet?

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP) rose

Peter Grant: I am sorry, but I would like to make a bit of progress.

I entirely agree with the calls from across the House asking for an open and honest debate. I agree that it is deprecable if any politician or their family is subjected to intimidation because people disagree with their point of view, no matter how sincerely or passionately that disagreement might be held. However, the same people who are calling for an open and honest debate have also dismissed everybody who has concerns about TTIP, including the hon. Members for Stone (Sir William Cash) and for Clacton (Mr Carswell), as being part of some left-wing campaign. These people seem to think it is a bad thing that an organisation has made it as easy for ordinary citizens to lobby their MP as it has always been for multinationals, which get managing consultants and lobby consultants to do it for them. It seems that we have gone from being a “left-wing campaign” a few minutes ago—I have been a part of pretty few left-wing campaigns and I sometimes think we could do with some more of them—to completely “anti-American” and then completely “anti-western”. The last time I checked I was a westerner. The only anti-western person in my household is my wife, and she is anti-western only to the extent that I am not allowed to watch cowboy-and-Indian films.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): On this anti-western argument, does my hon. Friend agree that the American trade unions are just as vociferous in demanding safeguards, in particular the removal of the investor clauses?

Peter Grant: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; this is not a case of America wanting to push everything through and Europe wanting to stand in the way. There are vociferous supporters of TTIP on both sides of the Atlantic, but there are also those who have genuinely held concerns, not only in left-wing organisations, but in some business organisations, among some people, such as those I mentioned, who are certainly not left-wing politicians in this place, among trade unions, and in that well-known bastion of left-wing activism the British Medical Association, although the Government have dismissed it in those terms previously.

We are talking today not specifically about the merits or demerits of TTIP and its associated potential agreements, but about where decisions should be taken on whether

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1191

TTIP goes ahead. It would be a bit ironic if Members who have taken the time to come here to take part in the debate on whether we should have a debate on TTIP voted at the end of the afternoon not to have a debate about it. I am therefore assuming that there will be no need for a Division.

Concern has been raised about the ISDS, which we are told has now been completely replaced by the international court of something or other. We do not know exactly how that is going to operate as yet. My question is: why is it needed? Ordinary citizens who are aggrieved about the actions of the Government in their own country can try to rectify that through the democratic process, and I commend 38 Degrees for making that a bit easier for those who cannot afford their own lobby consultants. If they feel aggrieved that the Government have acted in a way that is against the law, ordinary citizens have recourse to the legal system within their own country or within the country of the Government whom they think has acted against them. The legal system is imperfect and so is the parliamentary democracy system, but they are available to ordinary citizens. Why does a big multinational company need a further line of recourse which is not available to ordinary citizens? Why does a citizen whose family were hounded out of Zimbabwe in fear of their lives not have recourse to compensation through the international courts, yet a multinational company that is unhappy that its profits from selling tobacco in some countries may be reduced has access through an international tribunal? Why do ordinary citizens not have that? Why is that tribunal needed in the type of country that we claim to be, where there is a mature legal system, and the courts system is designed to be impartial and to give everybody a fair hearing? If the concern is about southern Europe, I point out that the nations of southern Europe are part of the European Union.

Guto Bebb: I find the hon. Gentleman’s comments fairly imperialistic, because the implication would be that we do not need this sort of mechanism in a deal with the United States, because we have mature legal systems, but if we are having these deals with a third world country, we may need it. I find the comment odd.

Peter Grant: The point I am making is that there could be concerns about the maturity of the legal system of some countries with which we might want to enter into international agreements. The example given earlier was countries in southern Europe, but the last time I checked they were part of the European Union. If they are acting in breach of a treaty that has been signed up to by the EU, I would have thought that there would be recourse through the European courts. If there is not, perhaps that needs to be looked at. I fail to see why it is necessary to have a separate form of recourse for companies that want to sue sovereign democratic Parliaments and Governments, one that is not made available to citizens of the countries who have elected those Parliaments in the first place.

Robert Jenrick: The hon. Gentleman is making a decent point, but the UK is already in bilateral investment treaties with a range of other countries around the world that have mature democracies, and some of these treaties have ISDS arrangements. The EU, including the UK, has just signed up to one such treaty with South

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1192

Korea. Is he suggesting that we withdraw from all those bilateral investment treaties around the world, including important ones such as the recent one with South Korea?

Peter Grant: I am not suggesting that at all. I suppose the question might be: if the ISDS has been so successful, why is it being scrapped and replaced by something else?

One final observation that I want to make is that although the Government clearly regard completion and ratification of TTIP as being a major selling point for staying within the EU—I believe the Foreign Secretary said as much before the European Scrutiny Committee—a sizeable body of public opinion in the UK takes the opposite view. I do not know how sizeable it is, but it is there. There are parts of the UK, including a lot of areas in Scotland, where people want to be part of the EU but will change that allegiance if TTIP goes ahead. That might be music to the ears of some Members, but the Government may be making a massive tactical mistake if they believe that support for TTIP will persuade more citizens to vote to remain in the EU. There is a serious danger that it will actually have the opposite impact. The tragic irony of it is that if TTIP is already done and dusted before the EU referendum, people will vote to leave the EU and then discover that they are still lumbered with TTIP for 20 years, because once we have signed up to it even our leaving the EU does not allow us to get out of it.

I make an appeal to Members, and this applies regardless of whether they have already decided in their own minds about the merits or otherwise of TTIP and whether they think it is a good or bad idea. Once we know the full details of what TTIP and its associated agreements are going to mean, surely we must have a proper and full debate in this place, and in the Parliaments of the rest of the EU, at least in order to give MEPs a clear steer as to how they should be exercising their vote in the binding decision that they will take some point in the future.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. He will have to stand up, but I call Andrew Percy.

1.27 pm

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I had forgotten how to do it, Mr Deputy Speaker. When I turned up for this debate, I was not intending to speak, but I have been drawn into doing so, having listened to some of the arguments made by Opposition Members. [Hon. Members: “There were not enough speakers!”] That may be a factor as well. Let us start by talking about the things we agree on. It was reassuring to hear Opposition Members talk in favour of free trade and in support of trade. I want to see Welsh lamb sold in the United States, although it is not as good as lamb from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. I even want us to export haggis, that great north of England foodstuff that we exported to Scotland in about the 15th century. I want to see that sold in the US in the right form—not with the bits missing that must be missing for it to be sold there at the moment. We can all agree on those things.

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1193

Drew Hendry: On that point about Scottish and other produce being taken forward, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Scottish Government should be involved in the ratification of any detail of TTIP before it is implemented ?

Andrew Percy: I was questioning the Scottishness of haggis. Of course, the mechanism for determining this treaty is well set out. It will be determined in the national Parliament of the United Kingdom, as it should be, just as it will be determined in the national Parliaments of the 27 other member states. The turnout of Scottish National party Members today is impressive, as it is in a lot of debates. It certainly could not be said that the voice of Scotland on this will not—

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Andrew Percy: No, I am still responding to this point. The voice of Scotland is going to be heard strongly and loudly on this issue, as it is on so many others.

I just want to talk about—

Steve McCabe rose

Andrew Percy: No, I will not give way. I have changed my mind.

I just want to talk about CETA for a moment. What the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) said about it being a Trojan horse is slightly offensive to the Canadian Government.

Geraint Davies rose

Andrew Percy: The hon. Gentleman did not give way to me, so I will not give way to him.

Geraint Davies: On that point—

Andrew Percy: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman wants to say that it was not an insult. To use the term “Trojan horse” suggests that the Canadians are in some way being used as a battering ram for the Americans, which is quite offensive. CETA in Canada has the support of the new Government, just as it did of the previous Government.

Much has been said about transparency. The theories on that have been well and truly demolished by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) who quite rightly pointed out that the text of what is being debated is available, and that, at the end of this process, there will be a mechanism for approval in all 28 national Parliaments. One could argue that few things that affect us are subjected to quite so much scrutiny. I am not sure that I can subscribe to the argument of the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), which seems to be that the process of agreeing TTIP could be some sort of conspiracy with regard to leaving the European Union. I did not follow that argument, as it made little sense to me.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the big interest of many of our constituents in what could go wrong with TTIP, it is vital that the UK has both a strong influence and the right to say yes or no, as these are very important matters for our goods and services?

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1194

Andrew Percy: I could not agree more with my right hon. Friend. Indeed, I agree with him on so many matters. The issue will come before this House. As I said in an intervention, there is an element of anti-Americanism in this. I am not saying that that is being expressed by those in the Chamber today, but it did come across in an email to me. I do not hear much from 38 Degrees. The people of Brigg and Goole are too busy just getting on with their lives to waste their time forwarding me emails that are written by somebody else, telling me what their view is. I did have an interaction with someone in which I pointed out this view about anti-Americanism. There was then a trail of emails, in which I pointed out that we had all these ISDS agreements with 94 other countries, and that had only been used against us on two occasions, and never successfully. The trail ended with my constituent, who had assured me in his first email that he was not anti-American, saying, “Ah yes, but the other agreements have not had American lawyers involved.” Clearly, there is an element of anti-Americanism involved, and we should not pretend otherwise.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP) rose

Andrew Percy: No, I will not give way, because I will not get any extra time. [Interruption.] I have a lot to say.

I could not disagree with anything my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy said. He made a fine speech, despite his hoarse voice, on the impact on small businesses. I represent an area that is a mix of big industry and small and medium-sized enterprises. Again, a constituent contacted me with something from 38 Degrees. I was robust with him on this position on TTIP, as I have been since I came to this House in 2010. I explained that it is of benefit to small businesses. His response was, “Well, I run a small business, and I have tried to do trade in America, and it is really very, very hard.” That is exactly my point. Those are the people who will benefit most from this agreement.

I represent an exporting centre in this country. A lot of small and medium-sized enterprises have great products to offer, but only a big corporation can afford all the skills and people necessary to navigate the regulatory difficulties; others can struggle, so this agreement will be of benefit to them.

I wish to say something about the impact on the NHS. Some of the scaremongering has been really scandalous. We looked at this matter in the Health Committee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), who is on the Committee, mentioned. We put a series of specific questions to Jean-Luc Demarty, who is the director-general for trade in the European Commission, and his responses could not have been blunter. It is worth while me reading them out for the record. We asked:

“Is it the EU’s negotiating position that publicly funded health services should be excluded from TTIP”?

The answer was very clear. He said:

“This is the effect of the EU's approach to public services in all trade negotiations since the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 1995.”

He went on to say:

“It is also worth explaining that even without the above reservations and exceptions, the EU trade agreements leave EU governments at all levels free to regulate all services sectors in a non-discriminatory manner...Therefore, in effect all publicly funded

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1195

public health services are protected in EU trade / agreements, and this approach will not change for TTIP.”

We were not satisfied with that answer, so we asked another question:

“What would be the consequences for the provision of NHS services, including hospital, primary care and community services, if they were not specifically excluded from TTIP?”

Again, the response was clear:

“in effect all publicly funded public health services, including NHS services, will be protected in TTIP.”

We asked again:

“Does the definition of public-funded Health Services include private companies who run such services paid for from public funds? Does it include third sector organisations?”

The answer was:

“Yes, as long as the services are publicly funded, it does not matter how they are delivered.”

They will enjoy the same protections.

We get a lot of nonsense from the EU, but the answer to this next question could not have been simpler. We asked:

“Is there any opportunity after the exclusion of any public services from TTIP for other countries to challenge that exclusion and, if so, what is the process?”

In other words, can they challenge the exclusion of the NHS. The

“Is there any action that a Member State can take outside the negotiation process to ensure that health or any other public services are exempted from the provisions of TTIP or any other trade agreement?”

The director-general said:

“As above, in the Commission’s view there is no need to take any further action to ensure this result, as public services are always protected in EU trade agreements.”

We received similar answers on charitable providers and when a national Government take back in a service. So, this nonsense being perpetuated about the risk of TTIP to the NHS is shameful. It is about trying to present an image to people in this country that big, bad, nasty American healthcare providers, which are only about profit, will come in and sweep up the NHS for private profit. Nothing could be further from the truth, as has been made clear by US negotiators. One US negotiator was really clear about this. He specifically mentioned the UK and said that TTIP is not a way of the US trying to get access to the publicly funded health system in the United Kingdom. The EU trade negotiator was very clear. He said that the service was wholly excluded already. It does not matter whether the service is privately provided, charitable-sector provided or publicly provided—it is all protected.

When people run around campaigning against TTIP and raising legitimate concerns—and there have been some legitimate concerns—about the process and ISDS, the one thing they must not do is frighten people and say that this is about American businesses coming in and destroying the NHS. The response from the EU—I never quote the EU because I do not like the EU, and I am campaigning for us to leave it—has been absolutely clear on this: the NHS is safe, whether or not there is TTIP. The only bodies that can cause any damage to our NHS, and challenge this in the way that those who oppose TTIP say, are national Governments. Governments are in a position to do the damage to the NHS, but in

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1196

England, that is not happening because we have an excellent Government doing good things for the NHS. In other parts of the UK, that might be up for debate.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I bring in the next speaker, I will have to reduce the limit to seven minutes. I call Helen Goodman.

1.38 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I wish to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on securing this debate. I am very grateful to him for asking me to support his application to the Backbench Business Committee for this very important debate, and I agreed with everything that he said about the risks of TTIP and about the need for us to think more deeply about the institutional architecture as we move forward, so that trade, environment and labour standards are all put on an equal footing.

I also want to say what an excellent speech my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) made. He drew out the problems that similar arrangements have caused in developing countries. The point that he made demonstrated that those of us who are raising questions are fully in the tradition of all those who back the human rights and democratic values of Europe and America.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has analysed the benefits of TTIP. Its estimate is that the gain in this country by 2027 in terms of higher GDP would be £7 billion. When one hears the figure of £7 billion a year, that sounds like quite a lot, but let me put it in the context of the amount of trade we have in this country and the huge uncertainties about the forecasts as we go forward.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I just want to make the point that statistics are bandied about for political advantage. My hon. Friend is quite right about the £7 billion, but how would it compare with the £62 billion of trade deficit with the European Union? Those are the kind of figures that make £7 billion very small indeed.

Helen Goodman: The point that I was going to make was that the Office for Budget Responsibility, in its forecast of GDP out to 2020, has an uncertainty of 6% in GDP. That is £160 billion, so we lose the £7 billion of economic benefits in the rounding. I am not saying that there will not be some economic benefits, but we should consider how significant they are and weigh them against the disadvantages that other hon. Members have mentioned. Will this have a significant benefit for our level of exports? By way of comparison, the impact on the level of growth in the markets to which we export is expected to be £338 billion over the next five years. If we have variations in the exchange rate, that will be far greater than the possible benefits we can get from this trade deal.

I am resting my case on the analysis from the Minister’s Department. On the assumption that the Department has got this right, each person in this country would benefit to the tune of £110 a year, or about £2 a week. It is very nice to have £2 a week and I am sure that we

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1197

would all rather have it than not, but if the price that has to be paid is a loss of working conditions, labour standards and potential improvements in the national minimum wage or national living wage, the benefits will not in practice accrue to ordinary people in this country. That is why people have doubts about this.

Colleagues have raised the concerns about the national health service, the environment and food standards. I think that the carve-out in the European Commission’s negotiating mandate secured by the French on audio-visual services is extremely important; it is also important that we maintain our cultural resources.

Let me come to the big downside of TTIP, which is the loss of sovereignty inherent in the investor-state dispute settlement. The intellectual integrity and honesty displayed in the speech of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made it a very important contribution to the debate.

Mr Spellar: Is not the logic of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) just as much that he would rather we were not involved with the EU either, as another supranational body? Is there not a danger in this line of argument?

Helen Goodman: There is nothing in our arrangements with the EU that is similar in any way to the private court system under the ISDS. That was the point that the former Secretary of State was making.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) said earlier that not many cases have been taken under ISDS or won under ISDS, but it inhibits ministerial action because Ministers are worried about court cases. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester made the point that in developing countries the costs of running these court cases are a further inhibition on ministerial and democratic action.

Geraint Davies: Does my hon. Friend not agree that in most ISDS cases, we are the investor in developing countries, and we would be the ones to take action? In the American cases, they would be taking action against us. We have all the fire to come.

Helen Goodman: My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but I just want to say that I think that Ministers are inhibited from taking policy action by fear of court and legal proceedings. When I was a Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, albeit a very junior one, I was interested in considering the entitlements to benefits of migrants from eastern Europe. My officials not only would not make the changes I was asking them to make, but would not even give me advice on the matter. They said, “Minister, to advise you on that would be to advise you on an illegal action.” That is exactly the kind of conversation Ministers will get into with the ISDS.

Mr Lilley indicated assent.

Helen Goodman: I am pleased to see the right hon. Gentleman nodding in agreement.

Robert Jenrick: The UK has 110 bilateral investment treaties, almost all of which have ISDS, including with some very sophisticated countries such as Singapore

10 Dec 2015 : Column 1198

and Hong Kong, where the legal system, certainly for commercial cases, is acknowledged to be excellent and akin to ours. Is the hon. Lady saying that the UK should withdraw from all or some of those bilateral investment treaties, on the basis of her previous experience as a Minister?

Helen Goodman: I am not saying we should withdraw. Perhaps we should have more parliamentary scrutiny of what is going on under the arrangements we have; perhaps we are shedding a light on them; and perhaps we should be grateful for those constituents who have alerted us to the issue. I am grateful not because we have to accept every single message in its last detail, but because they have triggered my looking into this more deeply.

Lack of transparency in the negotiations, weak parliamentary scrutiny and the risks mean that it is very important that we do not agree to this measure unless we strip out the ISDS. I am extremely pleased to support the motion this afternoon.