December: Written Questions

Questions tabled by Lord Waverley in the month of December 2020:
Lord Waverley

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to use the United Nations Sustainability Goals as a framework for their COVID-19 recovery strategy.

Answered by Minister of State, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a key role to play in framing and shaping recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide a valuable framework for ensuring a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery. We are proud to have led the UN Financing for Development workstream on recovering better for sustainability. As the Foreign Secretary said in his 29 September speech during the UN General Assembly, our recovery from COVID-19 must accelerate, not slow down our delivery of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any additional costs to shipping companies that will be incurred from the end of the transition period for the UK's departure from the EU.

Answered by Baroness Vere of Norbiton

The Government recognises the importance of shipping to global trade and to trade between the UK and EU. The Government continues to engage closely with the shipping sector on the range of changes brought by the end of the transition period. Some of these changes will depend not only on our future trading relations with the European Union but also with the rest of the world. Due to this and the fact that shipping often has complex ownership arrangements, we do not have a unified assessment of the additional costs to all shipping companies. We will continue working closely with the sector to assess and advise on these changes.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether commitments in the UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement provide grounds for a legal challenge to the UK’s measures for the protection of personal data under the Data Protection Act (2018); and what assessment they have made of whether the UK's existing data regulations meet the requirements specified in Article 8.84 of that Agreement.

Answered by Baroness Barran

UK domestic data protection laws enshrined in the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR are unchanged by the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which recognises the importance of protecting personal data and commits both parties to “maintain a legal framework that provides for the protection of personal information”.

Under CEPA article 8.84, the UK may adopt measures restricting data flows to achieve a legitimate public policy objective, including personal data protection.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to other governments about the use of technology to provide safe international travel without the need for quarantine.

Answered by Baroness Vere of Norbiton

The Government is in regular contact with our international partners, bilaterally and through international forums, to discuss a range of approaches to support safe international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government is keen to learn from our international partners, and to explore systems and testing measures that other countries put in place. We will also look closely at emerging technology and evidence that supports reducing restrictions on travel.

To reduce the period of self-isolation, the ‘Test to Release for International Travel’ scheme has been announced and will come into force on 15 December. These arrangements allow for anyone arriving in England to pay for a private test on the fifth day of self-isolation and exit self-isolation if the result is negative.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that (1) the National Security and Investment Bill, and (2) the Telecommunications Bill, do not inhibit foreign investment in the UK.

Answered by Lord Callanan

The National Security and Investment Bill will introduce slicker investment routes and more certainty for businesses, as we remain open to trade and recover from COVID-19. This will ensure the UK remains the premier investment destination in the world, providing certainty for businesses that they will not be targeted by hostile actors.

Analysis outlined in the Impact Assessment for the National Security and Investment Bill has shown that, providing national security regimes are clear, objective, and predictable, they do not play a major role in the investment decision-making process.

The Government has been clear that this regime will be exclusively used to protect the UK from national security threats, rather than wider political considerations. The Government is making the process of notifying and screening investments simpler, quicker, and slicker by providing clearance within statutory timelines. The Government will also facilitate businesses engaging with the process by providing informal advice on the regime and not charging fees for submitting a notification.

The powers given to my Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State to give designated vendor directions in the Telecommunications (Security) Bill is designed to allow for restrictions to be imposed on the use by telecoms providers of goods, services, and facilities from high-risk vendors, in the interests of national security. The restrictions that may be imposed by way of a direction do not extend to restrictions on inward investment from other countries.

The recently announced Office for Investment will work seamlessly across the Government to drive and co-ordinate the deal-enabling activities that are required to land high-impact and high-value investments.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the regulatory framework on the trade finance gap; and what discussions they are (1) having, and (2) have had, with the Prudential Regulation Authority about reducing the trade finance gap.

Answered by Lord Agnew of Oulton

The UK’s prudential regulatory framework is underpinned by internationally agreed Basel standards in which the UK plays a key role through its membership of the Basel Committee on Banking Standards (BCBS). Through the Financial Services Bill, the Government is delegating responsibility for the implementation of the latest Basel standards to the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). As part of that, the PRA will be required to consider and report on the likely effect of its rules on the sustainable provision of finance to businesses and consumers in the UK. The Government maintains a regular dialogue with the PRA to ensure our future prudential regulation is appropriate and proportionate for the UK.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to use their co-Chair role on the Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Cluster to advance the digitisation of trade documentation.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

The fourth Commonwealth Digital Connectivity Cluster meeting took place on the 8th of December. The overall theme for the Connectivity Clusters as they have been meeting is digital resilience and economic recovery. This follows the Commonwealth Statement on the Covid-19 Pandemic where Heads of Government sought to reduce barriers and promote the adoption of digital technologies as a positive enabler in order to increase resilient, inclusive and diverse trade and investment. The United Kingdom co-leads the Digital Connectivity Cluster with South Africa, where we have worked to ensure digitising trade documents is among the topics for discussion.

Digital trade facilitation and the digitisation of trade documentation specifically delivers benefits for businesses of all sizes and has acquired an even greater importance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to simplify their communication with SMEs about trade policy after the transition period for the UK’s departure from the EU; and what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of their communications with SMEs about trade policy after that transition period.

Answered by Lord True

To help companies get ready, we have launched a major communications campaign in the UK and EU urging businesses to visit gov.uk/transition to take action now, get their personalised list of actions, and subscribe to alerts to find out when things change.

The Government will continue to review and update the guidance we have published to help ensure businesses including SMEs, which are of such importance to our economy, are as prepared as possible for the changes and opportunities the end of the year will bring.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to communicate with interested UK parties in the event of trade deals not being reached with (1) Turkey, and (2) Mexico, by 31 December 2020.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

 

As of 15th December, we have reached agreements with 58 countries, covering trade worth £198 billion, which includes the agreement with Mexico, which was signed on the 15th December.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has published clear, accurate, and up-to-date information and guidance for business on GOV.UK and we will continue to provide guidance to business, including the latest information on agreements with partners such as Turkey, and will further supplement the detailed guidance already available online, as we approach the end of the transition period.

The Department is in regular contact with business and has also created free-to-use online tools (Trade with the UK and Check How to Export Goods) so that businesses can check product-specific and country-specific information on tariffs and regulations that currently apply to trade in goods. These tools are regularly updated to reflect any changes.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what the objectives of their trade in services strategy are, beyond those regarding exports; and how they plan for those objectives to be delivered through (1) bilateral trade negotiations, and (2) plurilateral and multilateral dialogue at international institutions.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

As the world’s second largest exporter of services, it is in the British national interest to champion greater services liberalisation globally, now we have left the EU.

We will use our independent trade policy to tackle barriers to trade in services and ensure open, fair market access overseas for British businesses. We will negotiate best-in-class rules for all services sectors, as well as sector specific rules for key export sectors such as financial services, professional and business services, telecommunications and transport services. We aim to secure certainty and predictability for British services exporters overseas, along with transparency on services regulation internationally. We want to secure opportunities for British services suppliers and investors to operate overseas through provisions for temporary business travel and supporting the recognition of professional qualifications.

At the same time, we will make sure that decisions about how public services, including the NHS, are delivered are made by HM Government (or the devolved administrations, as appropriate). We will do this through multilateral or plurilateral engagement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), such as the Joint Initiatives on e-commerce and domestic regulation, and by negotiating ambitious services chapters into new free trade agreements that benefit both British businesses and the British people.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to begin negotiations on a fully-revised free trade agreement in the case of each continuity agreement they have reached in preparation for the end of the transition period for the UK's departure from the EU.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

In under two years, HM Government has signed or agreed in principle trade agreements with 58 countries. Total United Kingdom trade with these countries was worth £198 billion in 2019.

Beyond the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom continues to have an ambitious Free Trade Agreement programme. We will continue to progress our negotiations with the USA, Australia and New Zealand, as well as prepare for our accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). We will also look to refresh a number of previously signed or agreed in principle trade agreements, where we are legally obliged to do so. This will help ensure we have deals that are specific to United Kingdom trading interests.

We will need to consider the timing of these agreements alongside a suite of other policy initiatives.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government which transactions will be called in for scrutiny from the 17 sectors listed in the proposed National Security and Investment Bill.

Answered by Lord Callanan

 

The call-in power may only be used if the Secretary of State reasonably suspects that (i) a trigger event has occurred or is in progress or contemplation; and (ii) that trigger event has given rise to or may give rise to a national security risk. A trigger event refers to an acquisition of control over a qualifying entity or asset. The Bill’s provisions set out a clear process for the Secretary of State to call-in an acquisition. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

The 17 proposed sectors would be within scope of the ‘mandatory regime’ set out in the National Security and Investment Bill. This will require acquirers making investments in those sectors to notify and receive approval from the Secretary of State before completing certain types of acquisition.

The consultation on the sectors proposed to be subject to mandatory notification is currently open until 6 January.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are any differences between the existing EU agreements and those that the UK has negotiated within the Trade Agreement Continuity programme that affect UK exporters; and if so, when business readiness advice will be published to help those exporters understand those changes.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

With our Trade Agreement Continuity programme, we have sought to replicate the effects of existing EU free trade agreements with trading partners to ensure continuity for businesses following the transition period.

Whilst we have transitioned our existing EU agreements for the most part, in some cases we have applied bespoke solutions in individual agreements for technical reasons. Exact changes are specified in each Agreement and in its accompanying Parliamentary Report.

HM Government is committed to ensuring that all British businesses can take advantage of the significant economic benefits of exporting. Our ambitious free trade agreement programme and market access work is already helping to unlock new opportunities for exporters worldwide.

We provide direct support to both new and existing exporters, to make sure firms have the confidence and expertise they need to export around the world. Access to finance is also important to business, and the export finance available from UK Export Finance, our export credit agency, helps companies win export contracts, fulfil contracts, and get paid.

 

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made since the UK–Africa Investment Summit in January in relation to their (1) trade policy for, (2) investment in, (3) exports to, (4) trade, but not export, finance with, and (5) trade agreements with, countries in Africa; and how UK trade objectives support the objectives of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Answered by Lord Grimstone 

At the United Kingdom-Africa Investment Summit we committed to be Africa’s trade and investment partner of choice. Nearly one year on, and despite the challenging backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, we have sustained this effort. All the deals and investor commitments made around the event have progressed, with further investments added since.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has directly supported exports to Africa returning over £1bn to the UK economy already this year, and we have now signed 7 trade agreements covering 14 African nations total trade (exports and imports) in goods and services, worth £20.4bn in 2019. Total trade between the United Kingdom and these 14 African nations has grown by 21% since 2009. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will start trading on 1 January 2021, offers great promise. We are a leading supporter of AfCFTA negotiations as recently recognised by AfCFTA champion, President Issoufou of Niger. We will support the new Secretariat in Accra, national level implementation, as well as the on-going negotiations.

These efforts will keep the UK at the forefront of African trade policy development, supporting delivery of our economic development and poverty reduction objectives, and drive the establishment of a new market for UK investors and businesses.