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Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

We now come to motion 2. Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of Mr. Christopher Chope, to be moved in an amended form. The effect of the amendment will now be to remove the name of Jackie Ballard and not to replace it with any other name.

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint Professor Sir Ian Kennedy to the office of Chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Scott Baker, Jackie Ballard, Ken Olisa and Professor Isobel Sharp to the office of ordinary member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

The Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 sets out the procedure for appointing the chair and members of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. The 2009 Act stipulates that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will consist of five members, including the chair. Of the remaining four members, one must have held high judicial office, one must be a qualified auditor and one must be a former Member of this House. The candidates for those posts are selected by Mr. Speaker. The Act specifies that selection must be on merit and on the basis of free and open competition.

The Act specifies that the successful candidates must then be approved by the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority before being proposed to the House. That has now happened and the motion gives effect to those decisions.

On 4 November, Mr. Speaker announced to the House that Professor Sir Ian Kennedy had taken the role of chair-designate. Hon. Members will have seen the names of the four people selected by Mr. Speaker as the ordinary members of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. They are the right hon. Lord Justice Scott Baker, as a former holder of high judicial office; Professor Isobel Sharp, as a National Audit Office-qualified auditor; Jackie Ballard, as a former Member of the House of Commons, having been the Member for Taunton from 1997 to 2001; and Ken Olisa, who is a businessman.

I am pleased to see that the proposed members are a diverse and representative group of people. Their biographies were published on the website of the implementation team for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority when their selections were announced. The nominees have been chosen by an independent panel on merit and under fair and open competition, based on the qualifications and experience deemed necessary for the roles.

I am confident that the statutory nature of the authority and the processes used to appoint the chair and members will give the public the confidence that there is independent, external regulation of the system of Members’ allowances.

Is the Deputy Leader of the House at all surprised that the ex-Member of Parliament chosen served for only such a short time in the House?

As I have indicated, this was an external recruitment process. There was a panel, and the nomination process was as I described. I have no further comment other than to say what I have already said.

Hon. Members can be confident that the authority has the appropriate skills to take decisions based on a clear understanding of the requirement for transparency and the need for audit in all their work with Members. The establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is an important step in restoring the public’s confidence in Parliament. The authority must now be allowed to get on with its work of drawing up a new allowances scheme. The leaders of all major parties have indicated their desire to move quickly on this, and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will give the motion unanimous support tonight. I commend the motion to the House.

Today’s debate takes us a little closer to the light at the end of the tunnel on the expenses issue, which has so dominated the political headlines and the political agenda in recent months. As we all know, public trust in Parliament is at an all-time low. As part of the process of regaining public confidence, we need to set in place an independent and transparent framework to deal with the implementation and monitoring of MPs’ allowances—a system that will command confidence from the public, but also allow MPs to get on with the job of properly representing their constituents, as well as fulfilling their parliamentary duties.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has already been established. Today’s debate, however, appoints to the authority’s board the key people who will drive through the reforms. As we have heard, all the candidates were selected by open competition based on merit. The selections were carried out by an independent panel in which no Member of Parliament was involved. The Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 stipulates that as well as the chairman, there must be four ordinary members, of whom at least one must have held high judicial office, one must be a qualified auditor, and one must be a former Member of Parliament.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy is eminently qualified to serve as the board’s chairman. He is an academic of international renown, and as chairman of the Healthcare Commission his leadership skills shone through. Equally important is the fact that he was not afraid to show his independence of thought. That independent nature is pivotal in reassuring the public of impartiality in monitoring and implementing the new allowances regime.

The appointment to the board of Lord Justice Scott Baker will bring to the authority one of Britain’s finest legal minds. He brings a wealth of experience, and he is no stranger to high-profile issues, having previously sat as a coroner for the inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed. Given that the old system lacked proper audit and assurance practices in line with modern standards, the appointment of Professor Isobel Sharp is to be welcomed. Her experience in accounting and auditing will bring substance, as well as robustness, to the new process. The new system will have to be open and transparent, and for that to be so, technology will play a vital role. So the appointment of Ken Olisa, a businessman whose career has focused on the technology sector, will have much significance. Finally, there is the requirement for a former Member of Parliament, and that role will be undertaken by Jackie Ballard, the former Lib Dem MP.

The process of selection has been a lengthy one, and for that I would like to thank the panel that recruited Sir Ian and the others, which was chaired by Felicity Huston, the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland. Thanks are also due to the Speaker of the House and to all those who served on the Speaker’s Committee that subsequently considered all the appointees before their names were presented to us today.

As regards the amendment that Mr. Speaker has selected, the House will of course wish to hear from those who propose it, and then Members can decide accordingly.

Sir Ian, as chairman-designate, has already started work with his implementation team to turn Sir Christopher Kelly’s proposals into reality. Today’s appointments are critical to that process. Sir Ian has said that he hopes the final scheme will be in place by early next spring, and I very much hope that that deadline will be met. Then we can begin the slow process of regaining the public’s trust not only in us but, more importantly, in Parliament itself.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by both the Deputy Leader of the House and the hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) in saying that this motion is a crucial part of a process that was started some time ago, which all of us understand as being a matter of urgency and immense importance in re-establishing trust in the system and ensuring that the decisions that need to be taken by an independent body outside the purview of this House are taken in an orderly fashion.

I recall that when we dealt with these matters earlier this year in proceedings on the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, there were details that were properly matters for debate, and matters on which the House divided. However, one that was not divided upon and on which no dissent was expressed was the process, now set out clearly in statute, for arriving at the names of the independent members. I hope that Members who had the opportunity to change that process will not express the view today that it is somehow inappropriate. It is clearly laid out in statute.

I have no difficulty with the process, and I believe that we have before us today a list of names that has been arrived at through a fair, open and competitive system, with the attributes of those individuals having been properly considered in competition with others.

The hon. Gentleman normally stands up for the right of this House to scrutinise business, but he rather seems to be saying that because some other body has decided these names, we should automatically accept them. Is that his view?

My view is that this House decided a process, which did not involve Members picking and choosing members of an independent body who suited their own personal views. I shall read from the Act for the hon. Gentleman, because he has clearly forgotten what it says. It states in part 1 of schedule 1:

“(1) The chair of the IPSA is to be appointed by Her Majesty on an address of the House of Commons.

(2) An ordinary member of the IPSA is to be appointed by Her Majesty on an address of the House of Commons.

(3) A motion for an address under sub-paragraph (1) or (2) may be made only with the agreement of the Speaker.”

Mr. Speaker has agreed to the motion before us. The Act also states:

“The person the subject of the motion must have been selected by the Speaker on merit on the basis of fair and open competition.”

It does not say that they should have been selected by amendment in the House. It states:

“The Speaker must not select a candidate without the agreement of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.”

That is a body that the House set up for the express purpose of advising Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Gentleman has rightly set out the necessary conditions, but not sufficiently. There is also the condition that the address be voted by the House.

But not amended by the House. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but if the hon. Gentleman does not like this, he should have made that point at the time when the statute was passed, not now. It is set out clearly.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it is not possible for us to have a vote, why are we able to have a debate?

I have a further concern. The attributes of the members of IPSA are set out in the legislation—the Deputy Leader of the House has already laid out what those people should be. One member should be the chairman and there should be four other members. One must have held judicial office and one must be qualified to be an auditor, and the motion includes both. However, one member must be a person who has been but is no longer a Member of the House of Commons, which is where I have a problem.

I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Speaker is perfectly in order—of course, by definition, he is in order—to have selected what is effectively a manuscript amendment to delete one member. However, if the amendment were made, it would leave the motion deficient in meeting the requirements of the 2009 Act, because it would mean that IPSA will not have the required members to do its work.

I see this as yet another attempt to slow down the process of introducing proper reform in this House of Commons. The process has constantly been sniped at by certain Members who wish to retain the old practices. Many of us feel that it is time for those delays to stop and time for us to do what is necessary to sort out the reform of this House.

My fear is that the motion before us is capable of amendment to make it unlawful, were the amendment to be moved, so on a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I beg to move, That the Question be not now put. That is the substantive motion before us.

Mr. Speaker has selected an amendment which in due course will be taken. That is the ruling on which I intend to rest.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I refer to “Erskine May”, page 341. This is an accepted parliamentary procedure. It applies to the Question currently before the House, not the Question that is to be moved at a later stage. It is that the Question be not now put. I ask you to rule whether that matter should not now be divided upon.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman has not moved an amendment, and that having made his own speech, he now proposes that the main question should not be put to the House at any stage?

It would appear a rather odd proposal that the matter which, as the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) says, needs to be decided by the House, should not be decided by the House, so I am not prepared to accept the motion of the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). That is my ruling.

I beg to move, after ‘Rt. Hon Lord Justice Scott Baker,’, leave out ‘Jackie Ballard’.

The amendment is in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), who sadly cannot be in the House this evening owing to official parliamentary business in Europe. It is an amended amendment.

Initially, I should like to thank Mr. Speaker, his office and the Clerks of the House for enabling the amendment to be selected and debated. I am somewhat surprised by the fervour of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) for the Liberal Democrat party. I thought that he and his party were in favour of open and transparent debate, which is what this is all about.

My remarks are going to be brief, and I want to make two points. First, I am of the view that Jackie Ballard, who served in this House for just four years, is not adequately experienced to represent all Members of the House on IPSA, which is a very important authority. It is going to establish an allowance and expenses process for the House to put right all the problems that have been experienced over the past 15 months.

I speak as a Member who has been in Parliament for 38 years plus and therefore has some experience of how this House operates and why some of the problems that have occurred recently have arisen, and we need a former Member of Parliament who has been out of the House for at least one Parliament, but who had substantial experience of this House and could bring a wealth of knowledge to the discussions that the authority will have under the chairmanship of Professor Sir Ian Kennedy.

During the passage of the Bill that has brought this motion before us, did the hon. Gentleman attempt to introduce an amendment to the effect that there should be this bar or hurdle that someone has to overcome before they may be nominated?

I do not think that that is a particularly relevant question. My colleague and I have tabled an amendment to the motion on the Order Paper because we believe strongly—and I have spoken to Labour Members and other Conservative Members who agree—that it would be more appropriate for the person who will represent Members of Parliament to have a lot more experience than Jackie Ballard.

I hope that what I am about to say will not be too controversial and anger Liberal Democrat Members. I wonder whether someone whose job is mainly lobbying is the sort of person—

Let me finish. I wonder whether someone whose job is mainly lobbying is the sort of person who should represent Members of Parliament on this important authority. I shall quote remarks made by Jackie Ballard in an interview with The Guardian:

“I might have a background in campaigning but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because of my knowledge of the voluntary sector, my understanding of the lobbying process”.

That suggests to me that one of her main assets is her ability to lobby. In the same interview, she said:

“There’s a really big job to be done, whether it’s fighting for better legislation or employment practice”.

I often agree with the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), as he knows, on the processes of this House, but that indicates that this particular individual does not have the appropriate advantages, experience and assets to represent Members of Parliament on an authority that will decide the future of allowances and expenses for many years to come and may therefore influence whether people come into this place or not, or whether they stay here. I am leaving and therefore it will have no impact on me, but I have a right and a duty to be concerned about the future of this House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me credit for being committed to this House as a democratic assembly, and I will fight to the death to ensure that that is its future.

The hon. Gentleman knows that I have frequently given him credit for precisely the attributes that he has rightly assumed to himself. However, this is not a matter for personalities. I did not mention the personal attributes of any of the persons in the motion. This is a matter of procedure, as he knows very well, and this is the procedure that was set down by this House—not anyone else—for names to be brought forward. It is not for us to usurp what was an open and transparent competition for those places. He can reject the lot, but I do not believe that he can take a single name and reject it on the grounds that he has advanced.

We took advice on the matter, and the Speaker, whose position in the House is very important and whose final decision is the final decision, decided that the amendment, in its amended form, was acceptable to the House.

I am not going to give way again because I promised that I would be brief.

I believe that I have certain duties, if I feel strongly about one of the appointments. I have the appropriate papers telling me how the individual was appointed to the authority as one of the four other than the chairman, Professor Sir Ian Kennedy. I am well aware of the considerable thought given to the matter, but I believe that in a democracy, an individual has a right, despite the expertise of many of the people involved in the prior process, to air their concerns and reservations.

I will not give way.

I believe that we should have an ex-Member of the House with considerably more experience to represent Members of the House during the critical few months while Professor Sir Ian Kennedy decides on the allowances and expenses process that will impact on Members of the House for many years to come.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At the end of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), he claimed to move the previous Question—that the Question be not now put. It has been the invariable practice of the Chair to accept that motion, which is a debatable motion, and to have the House discuss it before moving on to amendments of the form that has just been spoken to by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton). What happens in such a debate is that Members can then discuss whether they think that it would be right for the House to decide the matter that evening, or whether it would be better, given the circumstances and possible illegality that my hon. Friend described, for the matter to be moved over to a different day.

Order. I shall respond to the point of order from the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) first, and then I shall be very happy to listen to the point of order from the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley).

I say to the hon. Member for Cambridge that my understanding of matters is not the same as his. I do not think that it is correct that the Chair can simply accept the previous Question and, as he put it—if I quote him correctly—move on. It is not a question of accepting it and moving on. If the previous Question were to be accepted by the Chair, it would be debatable and the House would be obliged to debate it. It is not, therefore, a question of moving on. It would have to be debated, and I am not at this point suggesting that it be debated.

For the purposes of clarification, may I establish whether the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) was merely thinking that he was giving way, or had he genuinely concluded his oration?

Mr. Speaker, I have concluded. I promised Members of the House to whom I spoke that I would seek—uniquely—to be brief. I was brief, other than the interventions that I took, but I felt that I had to state my case clearly and transparently, as you would expect me to do.

I am very grateful. I hasten to add that I certainly was not commenting in any judgmental way on the length of the hon. Gentleman’s speech, nor expressing surprise. Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to him for his clarification.

I want to move on shortly, but I must honour my obligation to the hon. Member for Worthing, West.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The original suggestion to the House was that the original Question be not now put. Given that that was not accepted, we were able to go on with the debate, which would have been the effect of moving a motion that the Question be not now put. I suspect that there was some confusion between saying that the motion should now be put and a motion that was not put, which was the previous business.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but I am not quite sure that it has caused any fog to evaporate. Some people might think that it has even added to the quantity of fog. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) was seeking to move the previous Question—[Interruption.] Well, I think that the purport of what the hon. Gentleman was saying was that he wished to move the previous Question—which, if I understand it correctly, was a proposition that the original Question should not now be put. The premise on which that proposition is based is that the original Question would be put on another occasion, but not this evening. I am minded to accept that at this point, and for that matter to be debated. I therefore now propose that Question. [Interruption.] Let me try to explain for the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). The proposition from the hon. Members for Cambridge and for Somerton and Frome is that the original Question should not now be put. That is my understanding of what those hon. Gentlemen are suggesting. They are arguing that the Question on the original motion should not be put tonight. I am happy for that matter to be debated at this point.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Purely for clarification and so that I am not confused—I do not like being confused—may I ask what impact debating the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) will have on the time available to debate the main motion? [Interruption.] You did not even hear that point of order, did you?

I think I did, but if the right hon. Lady wishes to repeat her point of order, she is welcome to do so.

Could you explain to me, Mr. Speaker, in words that I can understand, what impact accepting the hon. Gentleman’s motion has on the time available for the main motion? Or can I go home?

These are relatively uncharted waters—and certainly for this occupant of the Chair—but the answer to the right hon. Lady is that if, when the Question is put, the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome is accepted, we would then proceed to the next business of the House. What I propose to allow is a short debate on this alternative proposition suggested by the hon. Gentleman—for which there is provision in the procedures of the House. When there has been a short debate on that matter, the proposition can be tested. If the proposition were successful, the effect would be that we would have to proceed to the next business. If it were unsuccessful, I believe that I am right in saying that we would be able to test the original motion—[Interruption.] Indeed: not “we would be able”; in fact, I would be obliged to test the will of the House on the original motion. I know that these are not easy situations, but I hope that that is clear to hon. Members. If anyone else wants to help out with a point of order, he or she is welcome to do so—but I do not want to tempt too many.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I right in thinking that if the proposal of the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is successful, the main motion would have to be returned to on another day, in another debate? If so, the import of what he is doing is to prevent IPSA from being set up and to prevent us from going forward—or am I wrong?

The hon. Gentleman is right. The matter would have to be returned to by the House on another occasion. It is fair to say—I make this point not evaluatively, but as a statement, I think, of fact—that the intention of the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome is indeed to ensure that no decision on the main motion is reached tonight. It is for that reason that he is proposing an alternative motion.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. For further clarification, if the motion moved by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is carried and we move on to the next business, we shall then have to debate the IPSA motion on a future occasion. Presumably you would then be minded to accept another amendment such as that which you have accepted as being lawful and in order tonight—so we would be back to square one, would we not?

I think that it was the late Lord Whitelaw who said that on the whole, he tended to believe in crossing bridges only when he came to them. However, I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said, which is firmly on the record—and his remarks about the selection of amendments are in no way eccentric.

I now call Mr. David Heath.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ought to preface my remarks by assuming that I shall be speaking to the motion as at the point at which I proposed it—because that has some relevance to the House’s proceedings. I am, of course, speaking to the main Question prior to any suggestion that an amendment had been moved. I seek your advice on that precise point, Mr. Speaker, because it is relevant. May I ask you, on a point of order: is the motion before us timed at the point at which I moved it?

I think it is right to say that the motion became live at the point at which the hon. Gentleman proposed it—or rather, I proposed the Question, having heard the hon. Gentleman’s representation. I believe that that was fewer than four minutes ago. I hope that that provides a helpful elucidation for the hon. Gentleman. I repeat—this is why I think it would be good if we discontinued points of order and got on with the substance—that I intend to allow only a short debate on this matter.

I now call Mr. David Heath.

I intend to be extremely brief, Mr. Speaker. We have now established that we are considering whether the original question be not now put—not the amendment. The amendment, in effect, has not now been moved, because this debate started from the point at which I claimed to move the procedural amendment.

Let me explain why. There are two points. First, I believe that if the amendment were to be carried it would invalidate the motion, which is a great concern of mine because I want IPSA to be—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is suggesting that if an amendment selected by the Speaker is carried, it would invalidate another motion. That would have been out of order, so the amendment would not have been allowed. As it has been allowed, the hon. Gentleman is clearly wrong.

I fear that that is a point of opinion—for sure—and possibly a point of frustration, but I am not sure that it is a point of order.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have already made one of the two points I intended to make. In the light of that point, there is an argument that the decision should be put off—I hope until tomorrow—in order for the matter to be resolved, and so that a list of names that is in order and is presented by you, Sir, on the advice of the people whom you are statutorily bound to consult and be advised by, can be put before the House.

If the procedural motion that I have proposed is negatived, it is clear from “Erskine May” that the effect of the “negativing” of that device is to require the Question on the main motion to be put forthwith. If, therefore, the procedural motion that I have moved—that the question be not now put—were to fail, the original Question will be divided upon immediately, without amendment. That is my purpose.

The hon. Gentleman’s last point contradicts virtually everything in “Erskine May”. “Erskine May” is not a book of things that have never changed; everything that is in “Erskine May” is there because it once happened for the first time. What the hon. Gentleman has just suggested to you, Sir, and to the House, is that either his motion—or rather your motion, Mr. Speaker, on his behalf, as suggested by him—will be carried, in which case we would move on to the next business, or that it will fail, in which case the debate will finish. What he is suggesting is a stratagem that disallows the moving of the amendment and the House’s chance to vote on it. If “Erskine May” does not allow that suggestion to be dismissed, I suggest that we should have a page in “Erskine May” that does deal with it—and it can start by reporting what happens this evening.

I accuse the Liberal Democrats of being illiberal and undemocratic. What they are saying—I speak as someone who would have voted against the amendment and in favour of the original suggestions put forward in the motion in the name of the Leader of the House—amounts to digging a hole and jumping into it. I suggest that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome ask his party leader to come along and say whether he knew in advance that the Liberal spokesman was going to try to play this game. If the Liberal Democrat leader did not know that, why did the hon. Gentleman not consult his leader; and if his leader did know it, why is that leader not here to justify what clearly runs against the purpose of the House of Commons, which is to be able to make a decision on a relatively simple issue—in this case: do we choose Jackie Ballard, or do we choose Elizabeth Peacock?

Let me say to the Liberal Democrats that I hope that the point that they have tried to make, either by means of a speech or by means of a point of order, does not work. And let me say to those who advised you, Mr. Speaker, that they ought to work out whether, this motion having been moved, it is possible to make a decision on the amendment. I suggest that we dismiss the hon. Gentleman’s motion—although you have put it very fairly to the House—and then find a way of moving on to the amendment and making a decision on that.

I think that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is experiencing one of his worst days in the House. He had built up a reputation for securing debate in the House, and for ensuring that Members were here to oppose what was proposed and to put their points of view even if that was against the wishes of the Front Benchers or the Whips. But what we are seeing now is a manoeuvre to stop debate.

You, Mr. Speaker, have already ruled that if the procedural motion is approved, we will move on to the next business. This is, in effect, wrecking and delaying the very development with which that hon. Gentleman claimed earlier that he wanted to proceed forthwith. He accused Conservative Members of trying to delay and wreck it, but the complete opposite is the case. We now see the Liberal Democrats’ true colours, and this horrible manoeuvre should be defeated.

I find this a very sad moment. The House is just making itself look stupid. It seems to me that what the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) has done is to resort to a stratagem that will have one effect and one effect only: the stifling of debate on an amendment that you yourself, Mr. Speaker, ruled to be in order. That strikes me as being fundamentally wrong.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made some telling points about the nature of the appointments, the way in which they had been arrived at, and the way in which you, Sir, had agreed to them—but you had selected the amendment, and therefore you clearly believed that it was entirely proper for the House to debate this particular proposition. I came here tonight from the reception which you were graciously and generously hosting for the American ambassador in order to take part in this debate, because I believe it is legitimate for the House to have an opportunity to consider the people who are being proposed as members of this extremely important authority. I do not want to indulge in personalities. All I would like to say is this: I believe that, as it has been decided that one of the members of this important authority should be a former Member of Parliament, it is legitimate to express the view that it would be a good thing if that Member of Parliament had a fairly lengthy experience of this House, and had betrayed a great degree of affection for and knowledge of it.

I regret the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton)—who spoke to his amendment very moderately—had to insert names, but he really had no alternative. That is not a criticism of him. I just think that it would be a good idea for the House to put down some markers, so that those who are to serve on the independent authority—which will have no particular impact on me, as I shall not be here in the next Parliament—are aware that we truly want this Parliament, which I believe is the greatest Parliament in the world, and the House of Commons, which is the most important part of the greatest Parliament in the world, to regain public confidence and trust. That confidence and trust cannot be regained unless those who have the supervisory role that we are discussing understand what being a Member of Parliament is all about, and what the nature of this calling—I do not describe it as a job or an occupation—involves and demands.

I hope that we can discuss this matter sensibly. Whether we need to vote is another matter entirely. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield has performed a service by tabling this amendment, and that you, Mr. Speaker, have performed a service to the House by selecting it. I also think that it ill behoves any of us to stifle debate or stop discussion on a subject that you yourself have clearly marked as entirely legitimate to be discussed.

We are witnessing a very sad exhibition of very unworthy tactics. Unfortunately, all this will do is to compound the reputation that we already have of being in a muddle, and of being untrustworthy in how we handle this wider issue. A motion, of which we all had due notice, was on the Order Paper, and you, Mr. Speaker, had selected an amendment, which means that you considered that amendment to be in order and worthy of debate in this House. Admire as I may anybody who can use “Erskine May” as the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) has just done—despite my admiration for his technical achievement in that regard— I think it goes entirely against the democracy of this Chamber when we cannot debate a motion that has been fairly put down, of which we have had notice, and to which you, Mr. Speaker, have approved an amendment for debate. If we vote that this be not now put, the ridicule that we will receive in tomorrow’s newspapers will speak for itself.

In these exceptional circumstances, and following the right hon. Lady’s remarks, I simply put it on the record that what she said about the selectable character of the amendment is correct. That was also said, I think, by the hon. Member for Macclesfield, and certainly by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). I hope the right hon. Lady will acknowledge that my concern in this matter must be to do what it is procedurally proper for me to do in the circumstances. Whatever may be said about the motivation for, or the reputation created by, the proposal for the previous question to be put, I have to make a judgment on the basis of what is procedurally proper. Members will no doubt be aware that the last three occasions when the previous question was moved were 20 January 1943, and 20 January and 3 May 1989. It is, therefore, a very infrequent occurrence; this is the fourth such occasion in a period of, I think, 66 years. I am guided, of course, by the advice that I am given, but I have also noted what the right hon. Lady has said.

As no other Member is rising to speak, the proper procedure now is for me to put the Question that the Question be not now put. So that there is no confusion, let me explain that the Question that is to be put before the House is that on the motion supported by the hon. Members for Cambridge and for Somerton and Frome—That the main Question be not now put.

Question put, That the main Question be not now put.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall be brief. Do you not think it is a sad day for this House when a political party—the Liberal Democrats—seeks to silence transparent, open and important debate? Will you therefore look at what has occurred this evening and study “Erskine May” to see whether the use of this dishonest, devious device can be removed?

Order. I am genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is an enormously experienced Member; will he withdraw the word dishonest, please?

I am happy to do that, Mr. Speaker. May I say “this unfortunate, devious device”, and ask that it be removed so that the House can openly debate issues of great importance for the future of Parliament?

It is in keeping with the hon. Gentleman’s long experience of this House that he should use that opportunity to make a second point of order. He has exhorted me to do two things: to think and to look at the matter. I think I have to say, in respect of the first, that it is not the obligation of the Chair to think. However, it is perfectly reasonable for him to invite me to look at the matter, and I am always happy to have my eyes open as he advises that I should. Beyond that, the safest thing that I can say is that he has put his views on the record with his customary force and élan.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that if the Liberal Democrats had been successful in their attempt this evening, the House would not be able to vote on the setting up of IPSA? That party has tonight attempted to stop the setting up of IPSA.

What I would say in response to the right hon. Gentleman’s point of order is that I have already said what the consequences of particular votes on given propositions would be. That observation from me is on the record, and it would not be seemly now to go beyond that, but he has, in his point of order, put his views on behalf of the official Opposition very explicitly on the record for others to see. We must now vote on the main motion.

Main Question accordingly put forthwith.

Question agreed to.


  That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint Professor Sir Ian Kennedy to the office of Chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and the Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Scott Baker, Jackie Ballard, Ken Olisa and Professor Isobel Sharp to the office of ordinary member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.