Amendment 81

Part of Trade Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 2:15 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, I shall speak primarily to Amendment 81, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, ably if very restrainedly just set out by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and to which I attached my name, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. Since we have yet to hear the explanations for Amendments 83, 106, 108 and 113, I will simply say that I offer the Green group’s support to all of them to increase the transparency and representativeness of advice to the Government. I particularly note the strong cross-party support for Amendment 106 and look forward to hearing the explanations for Amendments 110 to 112.

However, I turn to Amendment 81, which is about Board of Trade appointments—or, to give it its full title, the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations. As an aside, I think that the Government might use this legislative opportunity to bring our constitutional arrangements out of the 17th century, at least in a small way, by modernising the name.

However, Board of Trade appointments might normally be considered a rather arcane matter and something that would be of little public interest, although there would probably be a general assumption, if you were to be brave enough to survey 100 members of the public in the street, that such important roles would, of course, be filled by a fair, competitive and transparent procedure.

Then, of course, we come to Tony Abbott. Should my accent have yet to do so, I remind everyone that I maintain a residual interest in Australian politics. Your Lordships’ House has a tradition of politeness and a different kind of language to that often used in the other place. Normally, I do not find that a constraint; today, I do. Therefore, I will simply produce a factual list: there is clear evidence of misogyny, homophobia, climate change denial, a lack of trade expertise and a clear conflict of interest. The Government really could not have done a better job of highlighting the importance of the amendment. They might have intended the appointment as a blow in the culture war—it is hard to think of another explanation—but they set out their position of intending to use an important technical role for a clearly political purpose. I say very seriously to the Committee that your Lordship’s House has a major constitutional responsibility in ensuring that this amendment is sent to the other place. Defending the Nolan principles should not be necessary, but it clearly is.