The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 provides the legislative framework under which international agreements, including trade deals, are scrutinised by Parliament. Any agreement must be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days, with explanation of the treaty’s provisions and the reasons for seeking ratification.
Parliament can resolve against ratification if it is unwilling to support a particular agreement, and indefinitely delay any legislation that is necessary to implement the agreement in question. These powers to scrutinise trade deals are well beyond those available to legislatures in many other parliamentary democracies, and I believe they ensure that MPs can effectively scrutinise any future free trade agreements.
I am pleased, however, that the Government is taking steps to strengthen these procedures. The Trade and Agriculture Commission is being placed on a statutory footing, and will produce a report at the start of each 21-day scrutiny period on the impact of any trade agreement on animal welfare and agriculture. The House of Commons International Trade Committee and House of Lords International Agreements Sub-Committee will also receive advanced copies of trade agreements, with at least ten sitting days to examine the texts of trade deals.
I would also like to stress that the Government has made it clear that the NHS will never be on the table in any future trade deals. I will never support a trade deal that fails to protect the NHS.