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 Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 5:30 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I am a huge supporter of the small business sector and its growth. Indeed, some of the issues raised in Amendment 4, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, are also important. However, like other noble Lords, I am not sure that they should be written into the Bill. I want to take this opportunity to ask the Minister a question, which she may prefer to answer in writing. Essentially, I want to pick up on the points about the importance of small businesses made by my noble friend Lord Livingston —who, as has been said, did so much as Trade Minister—and my noble friend Lord Risby.

My noble friend Lord Lansley is right that some countries try to discriminate in the procurement process in various ways. He rightly quoted the US Small Business Act. What can we do about that in policy terms? In particular, can we improve the process facing SMEs trying to win contracts either internationally or here in the UK? From my own experience, including a period serving on the Efficiency Board in the Cabinet Office, bidding rules are complex and vastly expensive—as a result, it is said, of European Union laws and requirements. Is work in hand to simplify our rules as we leave the EU to help SMEs win a bigger share of procurement, as I think we would all like?