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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords) 8:00 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Stevenson talked about a speech, but I think he might have overemphasised what we are going to go through. I have pulled together a few comments and was looking to move Amendment 83, but many of the issues overlap with the last two speeches so I will weave in some of the themes.

The group beginning with Amendment 83 deals largely with the setting up and running, as has been touched on, of the Trade Remedies Authority. I will deal with some of the specific amendments and work through them quite quickly because we have another two groups to work through this evening. Many of them are probing amendments to solicit further clarity and details from the Minister on the running and formation of the TRA.

Amendment 83 itself touches on consumers and would add a third subsection to Clause 10(2) not just looking at countries, exporters or producers but adding a further consideration—the consumer. That is a sensible consideration that the TRA should be asked to look at when making any decisions.

Amendment 84 touches on the annual reports that the TRA needs to prepare and sets out a bit more detail about those, looking at any of the guidance, advice or assistance that is given to the Secretary of State. Probably most important is the final part of it regarding the laying of the report in front of Parliament. That is not touched on in detail in the Bill just now, and this adds in that little bit extra.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and others will touch on Amendment 101A, but suffice to say that including and involving UK producers and trade unions is obviously a sensible way forward. It would not tie the hands of the Minister, the chair or the chief executive, but would bring in organisations and individuals who could bring wide and independent knowledge to the formation of the TRA.

Amendment 102 seeks that the chair be vetted by the International Trade Committee of the other place, which is just sensible good practice and happens already with many other bodies of similar stature to the TRA.

Amendment 104 touches on non-renewable terms. The reason for tabling it is that, all too often, individuals who have been appointed to boards have an eye on the reappointment that is coming at the end of their time. Single-term appointments are becoming more common on boards, which means that those individuals can be far sharper and clearer, not tied up in any considerations about the next set of appointments.

Amendment 105 and 106 tie together quite neatly and delve a little more into the detailed knowledge and expertise that we would expect members of the TRA to have. The Bill itself does not go into any specific detail on this so the amendments would put in a little more detail about the individuals and their having knowledge and expertise. God forbid that someone would be appointed to a board for a political reason by the Secretary of State. The amendment would just add a little more depth and weight to those individuals.

Amendment 106 again touches on the criteria, looking at consumers, producers, trade unions and workers being involved with that.

Amendment 107 brings more detail in the clause regarding individuals, going back to the earlier question about how you set what “unfit” is. The Bill itself is quite bland on this; this amendment just brings a little bit more clarity and detail to it. Sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) have been used by many other boards for the ability to exclude individual members if they fall below the expected standard.

Amendment 108 touches on gifts, in a sensible way. Many organisations and businesses have this now—in fact we have it here. So why not bring a little bit more detail and good practice in on recording the gifts, if they were to be received by the chair or any other member?

In the last two, Amendment 109 considers how the report is involved with and deals with devolved Administrations, putting the inclusion of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other regions of the UK into the Bill itself. It ensures that the work is shared across the full gamut of the devolved Administrations.

Amendment 110 is a very small amendment, but it removes the Secretary of State’s ability to interfere, as I see it, in the working of the TRA. It allows the TRA to act and deliver its work independently, without there being the possibility of the Secretary of State pushing their will on to the decisions that the TRA would have to make.