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Government refuses to provide detail on freeport effects

[ June 25, 2021   //   ]

The House of Commons International Trade Committee said it was disappointed that the Government had not agreed to publish an impact assessment for the freeports policy on economic growth, trade, investment and jobs but instead would only publish “costings” for the programme.

However, the Government had commited to providing annual updates to the Committee on the progress of freeports and had accepted its recommendation to produce an evaluation of the impact of the policy within five years.

The Government also rejected the Committee’s recommendation that the Department for International Trade oversee freeports. Lead responsibility for the policy will continue to sit with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It had also “swerved” a recommendation that a framework be devised to assess whether economic activity at freeports is newly created or has merely been relocated from elsewhere in the UK.

Committee chair, Angus Brendan MacNeil said: “While the Government’s commitment to provide annual updates on the progress of freeports is welcome, the decision to ignore our recommendation to publish an impact assessment is disappointing. It is not enough to publish just the costs of the programme.

“Without details of the economic growth, increased trade and investment, and job creation that freeports are expected to deliver, we cannot truly measure their effectiveness.

“There is also considerable uncertainty about the financial benefits of freeports in light of the recent G7 agreement to clamp down on tax avoidance by global corporations. The Government needs to explain the impact this will have on freeports. If they haven’t thought this through, they may be in danger of sinking their own flagship trade policy before it’s even set sail.”