Amendment 81

Part of Trade Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative 2:45 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, I want to comment on three amendments in this group. First, on Amendment 81, I will echo some of what my noble friend Lord Lansley has said. As I understand it, the Board of Trade is composed only of privy counsellors, and I believe they are normally Cabinet Ministers. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, read out its full title, and I think embedded in there is “privy counsellor”. It would be wholly inappropriate for Parliament ever to be involved in the appointment of privy counsellors to a body.

As we have heard, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, what people are really upset about is the appointment of Tony Abbott. But he is, of course, an adviser to the Board of Trade, and I do not think there is any precedent for Parliament to be involved in the appointment of advisors or for the normal public appointment processes to apply necessarily to advisers. So I would not support Amendment 81 at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, has said most of what I wanted to say in respect of Amendment 106. I would like to underscore that I do not think that boards of bodies such as the TRA should have representatives on them. The board is a place where the governance of the body is played out, which is why there is a majority, under the schedule, of non-executives. It is important to remember that it is not there to bring a particular point of view, but to make sure that the body is itself well managed and well governed. The issue about bringing stakeholder interests to bear should be covered either by committees —whether we need a special committee to be hard-wired into the schedule or the TRA can use its committee power in the schedule—or, more probably, by ensuring that there are proper mechanisms for consultation in the formulation of any policy. I do not believe we should be using the board in that way. I also note in passing that the representatives are to include each of the United Kingdom devolved Administrations, which leaves England out in the cold. There is no representation for England, which is often one of the failings of devolution—having representatives from the devolved Administrations but forgetting that England is also rather important.

Lastly, Amendment 107 would require the House of Commons, via its International Trade Committee, to consent to the appointment of non-executives to the body. Again, this is unprecedented. It is normal nowadays—although it used not to be—for the chairman to be put through a process, either pre or post-appointment, but I do not think that there is any precedent for the Commons to start approving individual members of public bodies. It is unnecessary and cumbersome to clog up committees by getting involved in the many kinds of individual appointments that are made to public bodies.