LIAM Fox has come under fire for reneging on a promise to hold a full parliamentary debate on a big-business trade deal between the EU and Canada.

Campaign group Global Justice Now and the SNP have criticised the Secretary of State for Trade for backtracking over the move, which would have seen the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) discussed on the floor of the House of Commons.

But Fox announced last week that the deal would be dealt with only by MPs on the delegated legislation committee at a hearing today.

Opponents of Ceta say that even though the UK voted to leave the EU, the trade agreement will still apply to Britain as the European Commission wants to push it through ahead of Brexit.

They point out that the agreement, like the better known EU-US trade deal TTIP, will benefit big corporations.

Like TTIP, Ceta includes a controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism allowing companies to sue governments over any new law or policy in areas such as employment rights, consumer regulation and environment protections that might reduce their future profits.

Liz Murray of Global Justice Now Scotland said: “The EU-Canada trade deal is enormously controversial and will have huge consequences for public services, labour rights and the environment.

“So it’s no surprise that the trade secretary Liam Fox, who’s keen to get this trade deal passed at any cost, is hiding the discussion away in committee chambers rather than allowing a full parliamentary debate.”

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP’s international trade spokeswoman, has written to Fox accusing him of “dodging scrutiny at every turn and opportunity” and asking him to reconsider the move to restrict the debate to a Commons committee.

“The UK Government appear to have put themselves in position where ministers seem to think they can avoid scrutiny and parliamentary oversight at every opportunity. With the threat of a hard Tory Brexit set to hit our economy, jobs, small and large business growth and livelihoods, it is simply unacceptable that government ministers can simply overlook the role of parliament,” she said.

“Trade and Scotland’s future trading status and relationships are vital to strengthening Scotland’s economy. And if this Tory government cannot keep its word to parliament about how it will involve MPs in the process, then how can we blindly put our trading relationship and deals in the hands of the Secretary of State for Trade?”

She added: “It really does put into question this government’s approach of supposedly ‘taking back control’ but then avoiding the very parliament they want to have take back control.

“If we are to have any faith in this government then the Secretary of State must reconsider the government’s decision and bring this issue to the House before decisions surrounding the proposed deal between the EU and Canada progress.”

MEPs will vote in the European parliament on Ceta later this month.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Trade said: “Ceta is an important trade agreement for the UK and the government has always been clear on its aim to see a debate in Parliament. Liam Fox has worked hard to secure this session in advance of the vote on Ceta in the European Parliament on February 15.

“The International Trade Secretary set out his strong preference for a debate in the House. Due to the pressures of the legislative timetable it was not possible for the House of Commons Business Managers to find time for it to take place on the floor of the main chamber.”