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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Crossbench 8:30 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, I rise briefly in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and associate myself with all her remarks. I also associate myself with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh—I agreed very much with what she had to say.

Amendments 101A and 103B are probing in nature, and I will address a few thoughts to this TRA membership question. In Schedule 4, the TRA is proudly declared to be independent. That is important in trade, because, as one goes through Article 6 of GATT, and the 1994 associated agreement on that article, one sees that the whole idea behind trade remedy processes is that they are fair and are not being used as political weapons by the countries wielding them. That independence is therefore philosophically important to preserve. And yet, in Schedule 4 we find that the Secretary of State will appoint all the non-executives. In addition, the non-executives will always be in the majority, and the Secretary of State can fire all of them. To add icing to the cake, the Secretary of State has the power to issue guidance, and the TRA must “have regard” to it. That does not look to me like a recipe for independence. It would mean that the TRA would begin life with a bad image, and it would be difficult for it to appear a useful, independent tool internationally.

I worry that, if another body had a similar structure which might have political interference—although I do not think we would actually operate it badly—we could be on the wrong end of something we would not be able to criticise, because it would have the same structure. I join other noble Lords in very much looking forward to what the Minister has to say about the independence of the TRA, and about the points that I and others have made.