I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. I fell foul of the procedures myself today—I think I am still a new girl, navigating my way through these extraordinary times, but I pay tribute to the facilities we have and we are grateful to have the hybrid system that is working so well.
I shall speak to Amendments 81 and 83 and later amendments. For the record, I perhaps misled my noble friend the Minister in my question at Question Time, but I have the highest possible regard for members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission—they have proven their independence and their value to date. My noble friend said that they take no money for their role, so we are particularly grateful for their public service contribution. My noble friend will be under no illusion, however: I would like the commission to be independent and to have its own resources, its own staff and its own offices, and I shall continue my little campaign in that regard.
On appointments made under Amendment 81, can my noble friend put my mind at rest? What does the Governance Code for Public Appointments say about non-disclosure agreements? I am sure they do not sit comfortably within the present arrangements.
On Amendment 83 and the trade advisory groups, I noticed in the previous group that we had 17 expert trade advisory groups in July with, I think, 250 representatives. In August, we had fewer representatives and only 11 trade advisory groups. I would like to clarify, if I may, what the current composition is. Do they include, for example, anybody—a British national, ideally—who has first-hand experience of negotiating trade through the EU Commission, which would obviously be hugely beneficial at this time, as we set out negotiations on our own? To what extent is industry involved, either through the CBI or otherwise? I understand that the CBI was represented in the earlier trade advisory groups and it is extremely important, if the CBI is not represented, that we have some kind of business representation.
Can my noble friend also put my mind rest that services, both professional—such as legal services—and financial, have bodies that are represented through the trade advisory groups? If that is the case, could he please explain which they are?
I was delighted to sign Amendments 106, 107 and 108. I support the sentiments behind them and I consider them, at this stage, probing amendments, but it is extremely important that the Trade Remedies Authority also represents those categories. In Amendment 106, under proposed new sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) I would add (e) and (f) to include representatives of business, professional and financial services as well, because services are so important to our future trading potential.
On Amendment 108, I repeat my earlier remarks and endorse the provision that a person should hold office
“for a fixed period of five years”,
which would, I think, increase the potential for independence. A fixed term would give Trade Remedies Authority members greater security of tenure and therefore reinforce their independence and impartiality. A commitment was given by my right honourable friend the Minister, Greg Hands, in Committee in the House of Commons, that people are appointed on merit following fair and open competition, in keeping with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. The code itself states that there is a strong presumption that no individual should serve more than two terms or serve in any post for more than 10 years, other than in exceptional circumstances. I therefore hope that my noble friend will see fit to put this in the Bill through this amendment.