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Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 28 October 2009

I beg to move,

That Sir Stuart Bell, Liz Blackman, Nick Harvey, Mr Don Touhig and Sir George Young be appointed under Schedule 3 to the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 as members of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority until the end of the present Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, this motion, tabled in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, has been brought forward at your request. It sets out the nominees for membership of the new Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliament Standards Authority. It will follow similar lines to the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, and its composition and functions are defined in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009— [Interruption.]

Order. I apologise for interrupting the Deputy Leader of the House, but this is an important matter. There might be a debate on it after the Minister has spoken, so it would be appreciated if hon. Members who do not want to take part in it could please leave the Chamber quickly and quietly.

As I was saying, the Committee’s composition and functions are defined in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

There are five nominees who will sit alongside three ex officio members. The first of the ex officio members is you, Mr. Speaker. The others are my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House of Commons and the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) in his new capacity as Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee. At your request, Mr. Speaker, the three Front Benches have put forward names, and I therefore see no reason why those names should not be acceptable to all sides of the House.

No, I will not give way at the moment.

The Parliamentary Standards Act gives the Speaker’s Committee two functions: to ratify the nomination of the Parliamentary Standards Authority chair and board members before they are put before the House, and to approve the estimate for the Parliamentary Standards Authority—in other words, its funding.

The motion asks the House to appoint the remaining five members of the Committee. On behalf of the Government, and I hope the whole House, I commend it to the House.

I want to add a brief footnote to what we have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the House, and to speak in favour of the motion. It appeared rather suddenly on today’s Order Paper, but I hope that it is non-controversial.

We on this side of the House support the creation of a Speaker’s Committee on IPSA, in accordance with the Act that was passed in July, with my party’s support. We supported the Act because we strongly believe that MPs should no longer be placed in a situation where they determine their own allowances. We now look forward to the report from Sir Christopher Kelly to provide a blueprint for IPSA to work from. The leak of some its recommendations is extremely regrettable.

The Parliamentary Standards Act specifies the membership of the Speaker’s Committee and the names now appear on the Order Paper. I welcome those names, and I look forward to working with them.

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that I should not put this question to you, but I shall put it to my right hon. Friend. Does he think that the Committee is broadly enough based, and that it reflects the views of relatively new and young Members of the House? Their future is important to the House, and to the Government of the country, so should not the Committee be slightly more representative of the House as a whole, rather than of the great and the good?

I imagine that, if my hon. Friend felt that the names before the House were not appropriate, he could have tabled an amendment proposing alternatives more in keeping with his views. Speaking for myself, I find the names on the Order Paper perfectly acceptable. I declare an interest, and I look forward to working with the people proposed in the motion.

How can the right hon. Gentleman expect the public to have confidence in a so-called independent Committee that is made up of the usual suspects who have so patently failed to carry public confidence with them over the years? They also failed to accept the reforming suggestions to sort out the allowances contained in the early-day motion tabled two years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies) and myself.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that IPSA is independent. All we are doing this evening is appointing a Committee to oversee the appointment of the chairman and the members of the committee. If the hon. Gentleman wants an assurance that IPSA will be independent, I hope that he got that in the debate that we had in July when IPSA was set up—an organisation for which I think he voted in the Lobby.

My right hon. Friend repeated what the Deputy Leader of the House said about the limited role of the Committee, but does he not see that it would also have a role under section 5(4)(d) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, which provides that

“In preparing or revising the scheme”—

for MPs’ allowances—

“the IPSA must consult . . . any committee of the House of Commons nominated by the Speaker”.

Is that not the same Committee that we are discussing this evening?

Yes, but if my hon. Friend looks at that list, he will see that it is a very comprehensive list indeed, including Members of the House of Commons. I cannot think of a more embracing category than that. The fact that IPSA will also consult the Committee that is being constituted this evening is in no way exclusive and does not preclude other Members from giving their views.

It is up to you, Mr. Speaker, to nominate both the membership of the board of IPSA and the Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations—

May I make a little progress?

It is up to the Speaker’s Committee to discuss and agree on those nominations. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us where we have got to with the nominations that will come before the Committee, in particular the nominations for the Chairman. It would be helpful if she could shed some light on the time scale.

The Committee will also have an audit function, reviewing the Government’s estimate and satisfying itself that the allocated funds are not at odds with the need for IPSA to be a cost-effective body. Of course, IPSA needs the resources to do the job that Parliament has asked it to do, but at a time of constraint on public expenditure, it must be efficient and cost-effective, not least where the salaries are concerned. During the Committee stage of the Bill, the Justice Secretary said that the Government had considered the experience of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission. We hope that they paid particular attention to the controversy over the remuneration of those appointees. Some figures have been bandied about, and we should note that the House will take a keen interest in these matters.

Finally, the debate gives us an opportunity to ask the Deputy Leader of the House what progress has been made on establishing IPSA. When do the Government imagine that IPSA will be operational? Is it envisaged that it will start at the beginning of the new Parliament, or on a fixed date such as the beginning of the financial year? What arrangements have been made on staffing, in particular with respect to those currently employed in the Department of Resources? She will know that there is deep concern in that Department about their futures. If she was able to shed any delight in her concluding remarks, those who work in the Department of Resources may find that reassuring.

As the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said, the appointment of the Committee is part of the process that all sides of the House agreed by means of the Act setting up IPSA. The Committee will advise you, Mr. Speaker, in the appointments that you make, and it will deal with consultations, as has already been suggested, and with audit of the IPSA functions, when they are in place.

It is essential that we get IPSA in place because we cannot effect the long-term reform of the system of allowances and expenses until it is in place. A great deal of publicity has, quite reasonably, been given to Sir Christopher Kelly’s report, which was leaked. I agree about how unfortunate it is that the report was partially leaked. Partial information is the worst sort of information, because it makes people assume all sorts of things which may not be justified once they see the narrative and the text in the round. The Kelly report on its own is not a proposal for the regulation of the House. It is a proposal for the framework that IPSA will then set up, so IPSA’s role is crucial.

I agree absolutely with the right hon. Gentleman when he asks what the timetable is expected to be. The Members who are being asked to sit on the Committee will have their work cut out if we are to see a Chairman and a board in place in a reasonable time scale that will enable them to do the work that is set out in statute. I have my doubts whether the timetable will be such as to see real and effective change before the expiry of this Parliament. That means that we may find ourselves in difficulties with either a dying Parliament in its last days setting up structures that will then not apply to it, or a new Parliament without experience having to grapple with this as the first matter on its agenda. There is concern about the time scale and any advice that the Deputy Leader of the House can give would be extremely helpful.

The other point that the right hon. Gentleman rightly made and that I shall repeat concerns the audit function of this body in terms of the total package of costs for the organisation, but also more specifically the remuneration of board members, for instance. As an example to everybody else we need total transparency, and it is important that we and the public outside know exactly what considerations are being taken into account in setting up the new body, how it is to be set up, what remuneration levels will be, what funding levels will be, and how those funding levels will be justified. I look to the Committee when it is set up to ensure that transparency.

Members’ interventions have suggested a certain familiarity with some of the names that have been put forward, and it is hard to argue with the fact that they are rather familiar names. I suspect that the argument for that is continuity from what has existed before. At some stage we need to make a break, and there is some justification for saying that. But this Committee will have a limited lifetime. It will exist only until the end of the Parliament. It has a very limited framework of work. The motion plainly says

“until the end of the present Parliament.”

So this membership is for a limited time and we need to look afresh in a new Parliament as to who are the right Members, how they will represent all parts of the House—both in terms of party political representation and their experience in the House—and at their outlook and what they can bring to this. We should look at that carefully immediately following a general election.

I will certainly support the proposal in order to get the body up and running and doing its work, because there is some urgency. I hope, however, that the Deputy Leader of the House will hear in what I have said at least some caveats for the future, which I hope we will be able to take into account.

I shall be brief. However, I am not at all happy with the way in which we are going about matters. I would not dream of saying a word against any of the Members who are mentioned on the Order Paper—not my hon. Friends of course, and not the other Members either. But that does not alter the fact that we are starting afresh. The reputation and integrity of the House has been much damaged. There is no doubt about it. You nod your agreement, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that we would all agree that there is a need to restore public confidence as quickly as possible.

The new body that has been set up—the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority—is a move in the right direction, but when it comes to the names, inevitably the question will arise: why these people? Who nominated them? Do I take it that they have been nominated in the usual way by the Whips, and accordingly they are before us for approval? It is in no way to criticise those hon. Members when I say that I would be far happier if there was some sort of system whereby we could elect the Members involved, embracing, of course, the three political parties. I see no reason why not. You are in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, because you have been elected to the Chair, and it is your policy, as you have told the House, that the Deputy Speakers be elected. That is the right move, so, when it comes to what we agree is a fresh start to try to restore public confidence in allowances, expenses and all the rest of it, why do we have these names on the Order Paper? We have not been consulted. No one has consulted me, and if they have not consulted me, presumably no one else has been consulted apart from the usual channels. However, we are now expected to nod our approval.

I shall not cause a Division over the matter, but I shall be very surprised if I am the only Member to hold this view. It is only right and proper to state clearly that, if we are to appoint such people, they should be subject to an internal election, which would give the matter far more legitimacy. It is for those reasons that I have made this brief speech.

I am hugely impressed by the names that have been put forward for the Committee. It is a smorgasbord of big cheeses. However, I am concerned that there are not younger, thrusting and less experienced Members on it. I should not speak in my own cause, but I regard myself as young and thrusting; and I may raise this point light-heartedly, but I have a serious love for this place. The past two years have been traumatic for all Members, but the measures that Kelly and others have taken will impact on the next generation of young Members starting their parliamentary careers. I should very much like to champion their cause and colleagues’ causes, and I should like to bring an innovative approach—a new approach—to the Committee. I have not sought high office in this place, and I shall never get high office, but that is not a shame, because I love and take pride in being a Back Bencher, and Back Benchers are important to this place and to our constitutional settlement.

Mr. Speaker, I shall not try your patience, but let me give you one example of the innovative thinking that I would bring to the role. Let us do away with paperwork and forms; let us take the personal additional accommodation expenditure allowance and make it subject to income tax at a Members’ higher rate. Then, of course, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs would become the regulator of the scheme, the public would have confidence in it and we would be able to shed the civil servants who oversee the PAAE. Mr. Speaker, I see that you are about to rise, so I shall move on.

I shall move on and conclude with this plea. The Committee would certainly benefit from having a young, dynamic Member on it. That young, dynamic Member may not be me; it may be another Member. But it is not too late to add a name to the great list—the smorgasbord of big cheeses—in front of us. What harm could we do by looking at that?

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker). He, like other hon. Members and, obviously, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) on the Front Bench, will have been taken by surprise by the motion suddenly appearing on the Order Paper today. This meant that the only opportunity to table an amendment that would add my hon. Friend’s name in place of somebody else’s was behind the Speaker’s Chair last night, when today’s proceedings became apparent.

That is odd, because the way in which the matter has been dealt with is in stark contrast to, for example, the motions on the Order Paper relating to membership of Select Committees, when a lot of notice about proposed members is normally given and people have the opportunity to object or to table amendments. Indeed, I can remember, as can my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire, the appointment of members of the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill Joint Committee. I objected repeatedly to that motion, and then in the end found myself being appointed to the Joint Committee, which was a great privilege.

Like the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I think that it is unhealthy, in principle, that these appointments should be made by collusion between the Front Benches. Why can appointments not be made more openly by election? That has been a very successful process in relation to the Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, which I hope will bring forward important recommendations at the beginning of the new Session.

Order. The content of the hon. Gentleman’s speech is naturally, and entirely, a matter for him. I am not certain in my own mind whether he is seeking to move a manuscript amendment, but there would not be a bar to his doing so if he wished.

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for making that clear. I look to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne to decide whether he wishes to put forward a manuscript amendment in his own name that could then be put before the House.

I am no great expert on parliamentary procedure, but if I am called by the House of Commons to serve, of course I will accept that offer.

I think that the process that my hon. Friend needs to go through is to demonstrate a willingness to serve. I suspect that there are sufficient Members in the Chamber willing him to put his name forward and therefore prepared to sign up to a manuscript amendment for his name to go forward in substitution for one of the other names on the Order Paper. In order for that to happen, my hon. Friend—although I know that it would offend against his innate modesty—would have to take the initiative by demonstrating to his hon. Friends, and perhaps to Labour Members such as the hon. Member for Walsall, North, his willingness to serve and the fact that he would be happy to see a manuscript amendment put forward suggesting that his name be added.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) is mouthing the word, “How?” Can my hon. Friend help him by explaining how he does that?

Usually the advice that hon. Members receive from Mr. Speaker is that if they wish for some assistance in drafting or presenting an amendment, they should speak to the Clerk at the Table, who I am sure would, as always, be more than willing to assist. [Interruption.] While my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne goes and carries out that process, I shall address my remarks further to the issues before us.

The suddenness of the motion’s appearance on today’s Order Paper has meant that we have not had the chance for proper amendments to be tabled or the opportunity to hold elections. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will ensure that she responds fully to the points made in this debate, because although it has been allotted one and a half hours, I do not anticipate that we will speak for anything like that amount of time. She will probably say that the reason for the motion’s sudden appearance, without any notice, is the extreme urgency of the matter.

The Minister is nodding in agreement with that proposition, so I look forward to hearing her expand on it.

How is this Committee, when appointed, going to interact with the Kelly committee’s recommendations? As you know, Mr. Speaker, earlier today I raised a point of order about the extraordinary announcements leaked from the Kelly committee. There are conflicting opinions as to where those leaks came from. Apparently one of my hon. Friends has been told on good authority by the BBC that the leak came from Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee itself. That might put him in a rather difficult position, given that he is meant to be in charge of maintaining high standards in public life. I cannot see how leaking such information complies with that role, but I shall leave that to one side.

Other conjecture has it that the information was leaked by the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal Democrats.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has one scintilla of evidence for that suggestion, because I can categorically say that it is not true.

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has been able to remove that possibility, but I spoke to a senior Member of the House this morning about the matter. I will not disclose his name, because he is not in his place at the moment, although I can say that he is among those whose membership of the Committee we may vote on later. He assured me on good authority that he thought that the details had been leaked by the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I am listening closely to the hon. Gentleman’s arguments. Will he define how one becomes and remains a senior Member of the House?

It is rather like the definition of an elephant—when one sees one, one knows one. When we look at the right hon. Gentleman, we know that he is a senior and respected Member of this House, but I assure the House that he is not the person to whom I was referring in my remarks about the alleged leak by the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

That takes us to another possibility that is being speculated on, which is that the document was leaked by the Prime Minister and No. 10 to try to divert attention from the climbdown over the Territorial Army and the embarrassment over the Nimrod report. I shall not embark further into that territory, because it is speculation. However, I emphasise that, as I raised with you in my point of order earlier, Mr. Speaker, the Kelly report has now effectively been published. A large number of Members are facing questions from their employees, the press and their families about the implications of that report for them.

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman seeks to intervene, I want to call the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to order. I know that he will not want, for any length of time, to dilate on the matter of the Kelly committee or the recommendations flowing therefrom, but that he will want immediately to focus specifically on the subject of the Speaker’s Committee.

Exactly, Mr. Speaker, and what we are talking about tonight is the membership of that Committee and how qualified it will be to deal with its functions. I therefore wish to address some of my remarks to those functions, and I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will tell us about the interaction between the Committee members and their role in dealing with recommendations from the Kelly committee.

May I correct my hon. Friend? I do not believe that the Kelly report has actually been published yet. It is not due out for another week or so. There have been rumours and innuendo, but no report has actually been published.

It has not been officially published as a document, but the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell), who serves on the Members Estimate Committee, said on the radio this morning that there had been an authorised disclosure of it. Although it has not been published officially, there seem to be a large number of people who know about its contents. That is causing a lot of problems for Members and their staff.

Order. May I say again to the hon. Gentleman that, as he knows, this is a debate on motion 3? It is not a leak inquiry, or indeed a debate on a leak inquiry.

Absolutely, I agree with you on that, Mr. Speaker—I am certainly not qualified to carry out a leak inquiry. I am trying to ask the Deputy Leader of the House, who has admitted that this is an urgent issue and that that is why the motion is on the Order Paper at such short notice, to assure us that the Committee will be up and running in time to make the necessary appointments to IPSA. That will ensure that IPSA is in a position to take on board the recommendations of the Kelly committee as soon as they are published, so that there is not a period between the publication of those recommendations and the deliberations of the IPSA committee that will discuss them in accordance with the responsibilities placed upon it by the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

IPSA will certainly do so, if it is advised by the contents of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, which makes it quite clear that

“IPSA must…prepare the scheme”

for MPs allowances and

“review the scheme regularly and revise it as appropriate.”

I am sure that IPSA’s work will be informed by the Kelly Committee report, but I do not think that it will be dictated to by it, in accordance with the 2009 Act. Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the House will be able to give us a bit more information about that when she responds to this short debate.

The question that you, Mr. Speaker, suggested I raise with the Leader of the House tomorrow at business questions was whether it would be possible to get the Kelly report published sooner. It has gone to the printers. It could be published before next Wednesday so that everybody is on a level playing field in terms of information about it.

Of course it could, if there was the will on the part of the Government. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will accept that, given the reality of the situation, it would be desirable and fair for the Kelly report to be published this week, rather than delayed until Wednesday of next week. In that way, we would not get more speculation—it keeps coming out gradually, in leaks, and no doubt that will be added to in this weekend’s press if the report is not published now.

Order. In addition to the right hon. and learned Lady the Leader of the House and me, the hon. Members for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell), for Erewash (Liz Blackman) and for North Devon (Nick Harvey), and the right hon. Members for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) and for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), are proposed for membership of this Committee. I am looking forward with eager anticipation to the comments of the hon. Member for Christchurch on the suitability or otherwise of those individuals to be members of the Committee.

Perhaps I could start off with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire. He has been a loyal servant of the House for many years. The work he did from the Back Benches as Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee was of immense value. It was authoritative and earned him great respect from all his colleagues.

My only concern about his name being on the Order Paper is that he is no longer a Back-Bench Member; he is a shadow Minister. I hope that he will soon be the real thing—a real Secretary of State or the real Leader of the House. Schedule 3 to the 2009 Act, which sets out the terms of the membership of your Committee for IPSA, Mr. Speaker, states, in paragraph 1(d) that there should be

“five members of the House of Commons who are not Ministers of the Crown, appointed by the House of Commons.”

It is possible to argue that, inherently, those people should not really be shadow Ministers of the Crown either. They should be proper Back Benchers, like my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne.

Surely my hon. Friend heard the comments of the Deputy Leader of the House. She said that our right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who has now succeeded our right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) as Chairman of the Standard and Privileges Committee, will ex officio be a member of the Speaker’s Committee, and therefore the voice of Back Benchers will indeed be strongly represented.

That may be incidental. I am sure that my hon. Friend is right that our right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) is a worthy champion of Back Benchers’ interests, but he is taken account of under paragraph 1(c) of schedule 2 to the 2009 Act, along with you, Mr. Speaker, under paragraph 1(a), and the Leader of the House of Commons under paragraph 1(b).

My point is that in terms of the spirit of paragraph (d), when it refers to five Members of the House of Commons who are not Ministers of the Crown, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne is a Back Bencher who is youthful and energetic—and the other expressions that he used—whereas my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire would be bound to concede that he does not share those qualities, because he is inevitably tainted by being a shadow Minister, rather than a free spirit on the Back Benches, as he was for such a long time.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to use the word “tainted” about someone who takes on a position of responsibility in a party in Parliament?

I shall exercise my discretion and say that nothing disorderly has happened so far, but I am all agog.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire and I go back many years, and I shall not explain to the House the way in which we have interacted in various posts. He knows that the comments that I make are not directed at his integrity, which is 100 per cent. absolute, but at the fact that inevitably, by becoming a shadow Minister, he has become separate and apart from those of us who are not on the Front Bench.

At the beginning, Mr. Speaker, you said that this is an important debate, and I am glad that we are having it now. It is very timely, for the reasons that I have already set out in relation to the need for clarification of the interaction between what Sir Christopher Kelly recommends and the work of the IPSA, especially the Speaker’s Committee that we are appointing this evening.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne has decided to put his name forward.

I have decided not to put my name forward, because I would not want to bump any of the excellent people on the Committee off it. In future, I would like to be considered for Committees of the House, because they are often far too establishment, and that is the point that my hon. Friend is making.

If this debate has achieved nothing else, it has enabled my hon. Friend to make a strong case for being the first natural choice for membership of Committees such as this. I hope that it will be with a certain amount of remorse that my Front-Bench colleagues will say that they are sorry that they did not think of my hon. Friend for membership of this Committee. If my hon. Friend is not willing to put his name forward, we have a choice between all the people on the Order Paper or none of them.

As the hon. Member for Walsall, North has said—I share his reservations—we face a difficult choice. Either we vote against the lot or we allow matters to proceed. In anticipation of what I hope will be the Minister’s response, I confirm that I would not be minded to vote down this list of worthy nominees. However, I would wish to have some hard evidence from the Minister of the urgency of this and how it will lead into the early appointment of the members of the IPSA and an early start to their work, perhaps before the turn of the year, so that they can get to grips with the recommendations that Sir Christopher Kelly has made and about which I hope we will learn more by the end of the week.

We have had some interesting bids. Let me turn first to the question of Committee membership, given that it seems to have been a preoccupation of much of this short debate. It was raised by the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and for Castle Point (Bob Spink), my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker), who made a bid.

May I just say that, if nominated, I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve? That should be widely accepted by the House.

I thank my hon. Friend for that point.

We have had this debate a number of times. I think it came up when we considered the nominations to the Parliamentary Reform Committee. I do not want to intrude on the Conservative party’s obvious grief, but it is up to it to decide how it does this. It was open to it to have an election, and the hon. Member for Broxbourne could have put his name forward. That would have been fine. But it does not seem to have done that.

Some points were made about the great and the good, cheese, a smorgasbord and all kinds of other things. My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman)—we will all have to get our heads around her constituency name—is no longer in her place, but she looked rather surprised to find herself so elevated, if being a smorgasbord or cheese is an elevation. This Committee is not exactly the same as previous Committees with similar functions, and I am sure that she will relish the task before all members of the Committee.

I said earlier that I did not intend to press this matter to a Division, and I normally keep my word, so I shall not do so. However, may I press my hon. Friend? I am sure this was not her intention, but we should not dismiss the legitimacy of voting. It is very important. Obviously, she will not misunderstand me again when I say that this matter is not quite within her responsibility—it goes to a more senior level, as is bound to happen in government and the rest of it. I hope, therefore, that she will communicate with her senior colleagues on this matter. If it were put before the parliamentary Labour party, I believe that there would be a very strong case for this particular Committee to have the legitimacy of elections.

Indeed. I am sure that all hon. Members’ points about the method of nominating Members to Committees have been heard and will be taken into account. The Labour party held an election on the Parliamentary Reform Committee, and it will be open in the future to the hon. Member for Broxbourne and his hon. Friends to nominate him, to have an election and to go forward on that basis.

I am sure that there could be elections in the future. The point I was trying to make is that these Committees tend to be made up of establishment figures. The hon. Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman) is a former senior Government Whip. Newish Members never seem to get a look-in.

That is a comment from the hon. Gentleman to his own Front-Bench colleagues, so I shall leave them to deal with it.

The hon. Lady is right—that was a comment to the hon. Gentleman’s Front-Bench colleagues. However, this evening we have heard a degree of frustration that the same names crop up time and again on these so-called in-House Committees. There is a feeling that perhaps, sometimes, the advice of some of those Members has not been of the best quality.

Those points have been aired well in this short debate, and I am sure that they will be taken on board. I do not know exactly how the process was gone through, but it might have been thought that, at this difficult and turbulent time—again, today, we find ourselves in such times—it was a fair idea to have people with experience of what has been happening and of the different schemes put together. However, I do not know, because I was not involved in the discussions.

The problem is that often it is people with experience who get us into a mess in the first place. That is a problem with which many of my in take—from 2005—on both sides of the House have to wrestle.

I cannot help any further on that point. I am sure that all points have been made as well as possible.

Let me turn to some of the other questions that have been asked in this debate. If there are any points that I cannot answer this evening, I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will touch on them tomorrow or that we will be able to deal with them in the next few weeks.

I understand that the recruitment of the chair and members of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is expected soon. In fact, a substantial part of the reason for our urgency in moving this evening’s motion is that we need the Committee to be on board with the functions that I touched on earlier, in order to ratify the nomination of the chair and board members before they are put to the House. The Speaker’s Committee will be a key part of that process.

I was asked whether I could “shed any delight” on the timetable, which I thought was interesting for this time of day, although I assume that what was meant was “light”. As far as I understand the progress on setting up the new authority, it has an interim chief executive, whom Mr. Speaker appointed. Tonight we are discussing the establishment of the Speaker’s Committee, and very soon—once the Committee is convened—we would expect the board to be convened, also with its chair and members. All that work will go forward.

Mention was made of remuneration. I am aware of some discussion about that. Points were also made about transparency. The 2009 Act specifies that Mr. Speaker will determine the terms and conditions for the chair and ordinary members, who will later be appointed by Her Majesty, on an address to the House. I am sure that the points that have been made about transparency have been well received this evening.

Is the hon. Lady saying that members of the Committee are shortly to be appointed—in other words, that she knows who they are—or that she does not yet know who they are and neither does anyone else?

The hon. Gentleman refers to members of the Committee, but the nominations for the Committee is what we are discussing this evening.

The answer is yes. Advertisements have been placed, so the process of recruiting the chair and board members is going ahead. That is very much the reason for the urgent need for the Committee to interact with the process.

Some other points have been raised, about interaction with the Kelly report. We do not have the Kelly report, and I very much regret its leaking, as I am sure everyone else in the Chamber does. The leaking of matters to do with the House and MPs is despicable, but leaked it seems to have been. On interaction with Kelly, let me remind hon. Members that the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s primary functions include determining and administering an allowances scheme, so clearly there needs to be some interaction with the Kelly report.

A key function of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is to prepare any scheme and to review and revise it as appropriate. In doing so, it must consult a wide range of people, as set out in the 2009 Act, including the Committee on Standards in Public Life, so there will be that interaction backwards and forwards.

Could the Deputy Leader of the House confirm that we are talking about an independent body that will be supervised by the members of the Committee that we are discussing and that it would be open to them not to change, or indeed to change, any recommendations that Kelly makes?

I think that the answer is yes. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is clearly an independent body—it has the word “independent” in its title. That is the key reason for moving to the new scheme and for our working so hard a couple of months ago to get the 2009 Act through. There will be consultation, but one of the new authority’s key functions, as we recognised in setting it up, is to prepare, review and revise schemes of allowances.

Does the hon. Lady think that the public will be greatly impressed by the word “independent” in the title, given that the chairman will be selected by the usual suspects from this House, who have patently failed the public in not controlling Members’ allowances in the past?

The Deputy Leader of the House has not yet told us when the board will start its work. I wonder whether she could tell us that and, at the same time, perhaps answer the question that I put earlier about whether there is any possibility of the Government ensuring that the Kelly report is published sooner. It is already at the printer’s and could be published before this week is out.

I do not think that it is our function this evening to discuss the Kelly report, but as I understand it, the report is due to be published next Wednesday. Its publication obviously involves outside printers, and there is a certain amount of work to be done. I have heard the points that have been raised this evening, but it is not a matter for this debate to do anything about that.

On the timetable, I have laid out that there has been substantial movement. We are recruiting the board of IPSA; that is going ahead after you placed the adverts, Mr. Speaker. The new Committee, if we agree it this evening, will be able to go forward. The timetable, however, is not exact because we cannot set out a timetable for a board that does not exist yet. It will exist fairly soon, however, and we shall be able to make progress from there. There is now also an interim chief executive.

A point was raised about staffing, and I understand the concerns that have been expressed by the staff of the House. I have met the unions representing all the staff of the House, and I know that there have been other meetings, and all their concerns are being taken on board. I think that that covers most of the questions.

I am not sure who is advising the Leader of the House or the House authorities, but can we have an assurance—if not now, in a written statement later—that what would be required of an employer elsewhere in terms of the interests of the staff will be fulfilled here?

I can do no more than say that I have been working on this, along with other people. An implementation team in the Ministry of Justice was working on setting up IPSA over the summer, and meetings and discussions have also been held with the trade unions. We had a lengthy meeting in which we discussed and noted all the concerns, but the difficulty that I have in dealing with them is that, until the board of the new authority is established, there is little that can be said about what it will do. It would not be right to hamper the setting up of the new authority or to constrain what it can do, but it will clearly move forward.

Is it the Minister’s hope and desire that the board will be up and running before the end of this calendar year, so that it can deal with these important, urgent matters?

All we can say on this is that everything will move as fast as it can. Given that we only debated this in the summer, the fact that we have worked across the summer and are now appointing the board and the Committee demonstrates that we have made very good progress.

I want to conclude now, as that would be fair to Members—

I shall not take any more interventions.

On the matter of urgency, I do not feel that I need to come back to this matter. We moved the Bill through Parliament and decided to create the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority because it was the view of Members on both sides of the House, as the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said, that it was no longer acceptable to the public that Members should set and pay their own allowances. That is a continual matter of urgency—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is still quite some time to run in this one-and-a-half-hour debate. Since the advertisements for the board and the chairman have already gone out, is it in order for the Minister not to inform the House of the salary levels that have been set for those posts?

The hon. Gentleman is experienced enough a Member of the House to know perfectly well that that is not a point of order. What the Minister chooses to tell the House is a matter for the Minister. The hon. Gentleman has registered his views with his usual force and alacrity.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yes must be the House’s response to what you have said. That might not be a point of order under this motion, but to make a point of order to the occupant of the Speaker’s Chair about the salary of the chairman of the board is probably covered, because it is part of the arrangements for the salary of the chairman of IPSA, which is in the hands of the occupant of the Chair.

There is a statutory duty involved here, but questioning me on the matter in the way that the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) just attempted to do does not, in my judgment, constitute a point of order.

No, I have said that I am not accepting any more interventions. I have touched on the fact that the terms and conditions for the chair and ordinary members are by statute—yours, Mr. Speaker, to decide and determine, as you have done. Hon. Members have raised a number of points about that, and I am sure that they have been listened to.

The House is asked to appoint the remaining five members of this Committee. On behalf of the Government—and, I hope, the House—I commend this motion.

Question put and agreed to.


That Sir Stuart Bell, Liz Blackman, Nick Harvey, Mr Don Touhig and Sir George Young be appointed under Schedule 3 to the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 as members of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority until the end of the present Parliament.