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 Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 2:15 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, I will say a few brief words on Amendment 81, to which I attach my name. It would strengthen the individuals concerned when they have been through quite a rigorous public process for appointment. It would legitimise them and give them greater confidence and an assuredness in dealing with outsiders. If they have been slipped in under the net there is always that residual feeling that, from their point of view, they know that they are there illegitimately.

I speak from personal experience because I have appeared in front of a House of Commons committee. Paragraph (c) does not say that the appointment has to be approved by the House of Commons Select Committee; it just says “appeared”. There have been occasions where people have appeared and there has been a majority against, but the Government still carried on and appointed, which is within the law; they are perfectly entitled to do so.

Those House of Commons hearings are not perfect. I appeared, as an ex-Minister, as the putative chair of the Food Standards Agency. It is true to say—as the record shows—that I was asked more questions in the session about my previous role as Housing and Planning Minister, dealing with some of the constituency matters of the members, than about food standards. It was a bit frustrating, but, nevertheless, they are the ones who ask the questions, and that is what they chose to do.

However, the fact of the matter is that it gives you a greater degree of legitimacy if you have gone through a process. If there has not been one and it has been a ringing-up by chums or a tap on the shoulder, you do not seem legitimate. In the end, it shows. Therefore, I strongly advise the Government to beef up the public appointments process. There may be other ways of doing it, but the fact is that we have some tried and tested systems in this country for public appointments. We have been able to lead in some areas, and this is one where we should not be backsliding; we should use the most rigorous public appointments process that we have because it legitimises those so appointed.