Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 5:15 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, both these amendments provide us with a useful opportunity for discussion on important areas of trade, but both are without a doubt, to my mind, without the Bill. If we approach them in this spirit I think we can accept them as a useful addition for the future. I support my noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendment 5 and will concentrate upon it because there is always a lot of rhetoric about SMEs and the need to encourage and support them, particularly in this context of increasing and developing international trade and their trading opportunities, and especially in this brave new world that awaits us after Brexit. Therefore, to have a specific quota for procurement is a very good way of drawing attention to the needs of small businesses and to encourage them to come forward when the time comes. Because it is not just a question of legislation: with all trade, it is a question of getting people out and about in the countries where we hope that they will find trading opportunities.

When we talk about international trade, of course there is much more to it than that. There is the whole issue of language skills and specialised negotiating skills which, by their very nature, small and medium-sized businesses may not be able to cope with. They are not likely to have the specialised staff or even the budgets to deal with this. I think that for the future we can certainly build on this amendment and the intention behind it, but as I said at the outset, not in this Bill. I trust that my noble friend the Minister will be able to reassure us that these interventions are not wasted but will be of great use when we come to deal with individual trade Bills in the future.