Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was due to attend a meeting on Wednesday morning
Boris Johnson‘s international trade secretary has pulled out of a parliamentary scrutiny session at the last minute after the committee she was due to appear at criticised her.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan was due to answer questions from MPs on the International Trade Committee at 10am this morning – but the committee was told hours before that she would not be attending.
The MPs had on Wednesday morning published a new report criticising the government for apparently dodging parliamentary scrutiny on one of its planned trade deals – including failure to give evidence to them. The report was circulated under embargo the night before the appearance.
In its damning report, the committee complained that its scrutiny work of the deal so far had been “hindered by government delays” Incluindo “failure to provide timely responses to Committee request”, “failure of a Minister to give timely evidence to the Committee”, e “failure to honour previous commitments”.
O “brief” period of scrutiny of the proposed agreement with Australia was started before the committee had even had time to publish its own analysis, they said – calling for it to be extended.
The MPs said the government’s delay tactics meant they had been “unable to conclude our report before the statutory period under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRaG) was commenced” – a key deadline.
The Department for International Trade said its secretary of state was busy with policy matters and had offered an alternative time slot on another occasion.
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon at prime minister’s questions, Angus Brendan MacNeil, chair of the International trade committee said the situation was “a serious question on the conduct of the government”.
“I cannot understate the fury of the international trade committee this morning that led us the unanimously empty-chair, the Secretary of State for International Trade,” ele disse.
“The government has broken its word to the committee, to the house, and you Mr. Speaker on scrutiny of the Australian trade deal.”
The government has been repeatedly criticised for the limited parliamentary scrutiny it is giving its trade deals.
The agreements themselves have raised concerns that they could be used to run down standards in the UK market and do not include adequate safeguards to stop British producers being unfairly undercut.
Asked about the no-show, a Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “The International Trade Secretary is in the process of finalising a finely balanced decision on the steel safeguard by 30 Junho. This is an issue of national strategic importance, and she has had to ensure she is able to review the final advice from the Department before updating Parliament today.
“She informed the chair of the International Trade Committee last night, apologised for having to cancel and immediately offered an alternative two-hour slot next week. We await the response from the Committee.
“We have made enhanced commitments to scrutiny and transparency at every stage of UK-Australia FTA negotiations. This includes ministers appearing in front of the ITC and giving Parliament over six months to scrutinise the legal text, in addition to the 21-day period provided by us triggering the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act process.”