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 Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative 2:45 pm, 15th October 2020

My Lords, I have listened to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, and the other two proposers of Amendment 81, which seeks to restrict appointments to the Board of Trade. As my noble friend Lady Noakes has pointed out, I think that he intended his amendment to apply to advisers to the Board of Trade. It must be most discouraging for new appointees as advisers to the Board of Trade to hear the criticism of their suitability. I agree with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that the new Board of Trade should be well advised by experienced people who can make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world. I am happy to see that Tony Abbott, Daniel Hannan and others have been appointed, and I disagree with those who say that people who hold different views on social issues unconnected with trade should not be appointed to such positions. There is, at the present time, great global insecurity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than ever, the UK needs to be a strong voice for open markets and for reshaping global trading rules, together with countries such as Australia, with which we expect to soon agree on the terms of a new free trade agreement.

In response to the suggestion that appointments to the Board of Trade should be made subject to the Governance Code on Public Appointments, I would say that perhaps the governance code is too restrictive and generally leads to the selection of a particular type of person, excluding those who are able to think outside the box and suggest innovative solutions, rather than those who resist change to practices that will not work well for global Britain in future.

Amendment 83, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, seeks to increase the influence of trade unions over the trade advisory groups. This amendment is also unnecessarily prescriptive, especially as there are representatives of each of the four nations’ national farmers unions on the Trade and Agriculture Commission beside the representative of the Farmers’ Union of Wales. Besides, the further attack on the Government’s prerogative powers on treaty negotiations by exposing day-to-day salient developments in trade negotiations to public scrutiny would seriously detract from our negotiators’ ability to represent British interests successfully.

Amendment 106, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, also unreasonably seeks to restrict the Secretary of State’s ability to appoint the board of the Trade Remedies Authority. It is notable that the noble Lord does not think it so important to include people with experience of international trade disputes and business as he does representatives of his four chosen categories. I tend to agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, said in this regard. However, I suggest to the Minister that it would be better if the chief executive and both executive and non-executive directors were appointed by the chairman with the approval of the Secretary of State. This would result in better corporate governance and lead to smoother functioning of the board.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, that her Amendments 110 and 111 would be improvements to the Bill. I agree with the intention of her Amendment 112, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Lansley, in his Amendment 113, that the annual report should be as informative as appropriate. Perhaps the Minister could suggest some suitable amendments to that effect, even if he considers these particular amendments to be too prescriptive.