Barry Gardiner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, commenting on Liam Fox’s failure to allow parliamentary scrutiny on the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) within his own deadline, said:
“Liam Fox is presiding over a department in chaos. Letters go unresponded. Freedom of Information deadlines are flouted and today he has broken his own commitment to allow parliament to have a say on this major trade deal between the EU and Canada.
“After being upbraided by the European Scrutiny Committee for his failure to consult parliament, the Secretary of State promised a debate would take place in November. It is now December 1st. What is clear is clear that proper scrutiny and oversight is being avoided. This sets an extremely dangerous precedent for how the government plans to conduct its international trade strategy. It’s also an alarming reflection of the cavalier approach Liam Fox has to his department's duties and responsibilities.
“Liam Fox hailed Brexit as a way for our Parliament to take back control over our laws, treaties and agreements. Yet he is denying the elected representatives of the British people the chance to scrutinise the Comprehensive Economic &Trade Agreement. CETA was negotiated in secret. It gives corporations the right to sue our government, and could see the UK locked in for the next 20 years even after we leave the EU. How is this reclaiming sovereignty?"
Notes to Editors
1. Liam Fox gave oral evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee on the 26 October, where he “reinforce[d] [his] commitment to the Committee … to hold such a debate” and assured the committee that “our officials are already working with business managers to identify a date, most likely, we understand, in November”.
2. Cabinet Office guidance notes dated March 2016 stipulate that government departments should respond to official correspondence from MPs within 20 working days or better. A letter from Barry Gardiner to Liam Fox on 1st November 2016 regarding allegations of corruption in commercial trade deals has not even been served with the courtesy of a holding response as yet.
3. DIT has also failed to respond within the designated time frame to requests for information releases under the Freedom of Information Act. One request was submitted on 8th August and a reply was given on the 16th November, making it 100 days for the Department to reply. This breaches statutory limits, as the FOI Act requires a response within 20 working days of receiving a request. The Department has consequently been referred to the Information Commissioner.