Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Risby Lord Risby Conservative 5:30 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, as one of the Prime Minister’s trade envoys and as a long-standing deputy chairman of the Small Business Bureau, I support the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Lansley. I salute my noble friend Lord Livingston’s efforts, who helped to transform our external commercial activities.

Highlighting the importance of the small business sector is key to what the department is now doing. That is a huge cultural change because, although our small and medium-sized businesses sector is vibrant, it has not been brought into the loop of trade promotion. Huge effort is being undertaken there. I mention that because, earlier in the debate, there was an implication of inaction in the department. I have seen for myself how utterly untrue that is. For example, you can see on the website how small and medium-sized businesses are being offered communication skills and efforts are being made to encourage them; a sophisticated system is being put into effect.

My noble friend talked about strategy. Simply, there has been something of an oversight as far as the sector is concerned, particularly in terms of trade promotion. What is happening now is definitely a considerable change. The amendment highlights the importance of the sector for the future of this country and its future dynamic economic activity, which I hope will happen post Brexit, and offers a framework for participation in procurement. I hope that the Minister will give some sort of encouragement or indication of whether this is at the forefront of her thinking and that of the department when she replies to the debate because I believe that an important message was relayed by my noble friend in his remarks.