We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment 59

Part of Trade Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:33 pm on 13th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 7:33 pm, 13th March 2019

My Lords, it is a pleasure to be the back-marker on Report. Amendment 59 inserts text into the schedule that sets up the process for appointments to the Trade Remedies Authority, so that the chair can be appointed by the Secretary of State,

“following a report from the International Trade Committee of the House of Commons”.

In effect, this includes the chair of the Trade Remedies Authority in the list of appointments that are subject to pre-appointment scrutiny.

I do not do this lightly. There are about 1,000 senior public appointments, only 50 of which are subject to pre-appointment hearings by Select Committees. The Cabinet Office guidance on this was amended then reissued in January. Paragraph 8 sets out three criteria, the first of which says that such appointments should be for,

“posts which play a key role in regulation of actions by Government”.

This clearly must be satisfied as it determines one of the essential roles of the Department for International Trade in investigating and recommending trade remedies. Secondly, the appointments must be,

“posts which play a key role in protecting and safeguarding the public’s rights and interests in relation to the actions and decisions of Government”.

This instance may not be about the public, but certainly it ticks the box for the business community, which would regard the TRA as one of the most important bodies impacting on its interests in relation to the actions of the Government. Thirdly, the guidance says that appointments subject to pre-appointment hearings must be,

“posts in organisations that have a major impact on public life or the lives of the public where it is vital for the reputation and credibility of that organisation that the post holder acts, and is seen to act, independently of Ministers and the Government”.

Noble Lords will recall that, at a much earlier stage, we debated whether this body should be independent. The Government, having looked around the world, decided that the Trade Remedies Authority should be independent, and seen to be independent. We have three ticks in the box. This is clearly an important appointment; for the Department for International Trade, it must be regarded as the most important appointment. I do not know of any other posts that it is presently asked to scrutinise prior to appointment. This seems a perfectly reasonable way to proceed; nor does it constrain Ministers too far, as we have discovered. Ministers have to consult and liaise with Select Committees, respond to them and take account of what they have said, but they do not have to do what a Select Committee says and in quite a number of instances have not done so. Ministers can still make the appointments that they consider to be the right ones. I do not feel that I am holding the Government back from doing what they need to do. I am just encouraging them to include this appointment in that list. I beg to move.