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Regional Select Committee (London)

Volume 502: debated on Monday 14 December 2009

I beg to move,

That Ms Karen Buck, Jeremy Corbyn, Clive Efford, Siobhain McDonagh, Mr Andy Slaughter and Mr Andrew Pelling be members of the London Regional Select Committee.

On 12 November, 2008, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House committed to bring proposals to the House to establish a Regional Select Committee for London. The House debated and resolved to set up the Committee on 25 June this year. The motion simply asks the House to agree the names for the Committee. The House has already resolved to establish the Committee, which should now be given the opportunity to meet and to take forward its business. My party has nominated five members who are all respected Members of this House and who will, I believe, do a good job of holding to account the Government’s activities in London, so I commend the motion to the House.

I intend to challenge the Government’s motion, but I think it might be a good idea first to establish, briefly, the Select Committee’s purpose, so that we can assess whether its proposed members will be able to do a good job.

In June, when we first discussed this topic on the Floor of the House, the Leader of the House spoke of an accountability gap. I think that many Members—certainly Conservative Members—felt that there was an accountability gap in democracy in Britain, but that it had less to do with the London Committee than with a Prime Minister who refused to call a general election.

The Leader of the House seemed to feel that, although we had a Mayor of London, a London assembly, a Government office for London and a plethora of London Members of Parliament, that was somehow not enough. She clearly feared that some issues, such as Heathrow, might slip through the net and not be debated properly. She clearly also feared that the work of, I think, 41 other Select Committees would not be sufficient, and that we would therefore need a further Select Committee to examine London issues in particular.

That is interesting, because London issues have already been examined by many Select Committees, as is clear from the many Select Committee reports on London that have been produced over the past five years. Leafing through them, I spotted a report on the congestion charge by the Transport Committee, which I understand also recently examined the London underground. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee conducted a special inquiry into the London Olympics. The Education and Skills Committee, when it still existed, looked into skills in London. I am sure that many Members were concerned to read the report of the Home Affairs Committee—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The motion relates simply to membership of the Committee. It was not intended to lead to a debate on whether the Committee should exist in the first place. The issue before the House is not whether we should have a Committee, but who should be on it. [Interruption.]

Order. Before I respond to the point of order, let me say that I am a bit worried about the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt). I am concerned about his health. I do not want him to erupt, but I am concerned that he might pop. Anyone would think that some Members had had an exceptionally good dinner.

What I want to say to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore)—[Interruption.] Order. Members should want to hear what I am going to say to the hon. Member for Hendon. What I want to say to the hon. Member for Hendon is that he is, of course, correct—that is indeed the thrust and the limit of the motion before us—but, as he knows, I am a person of generous spirit. [Interruption.] Order. It is perfectly legitimate for the hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening) to make some opening remarks by way of background, and I know that she now intends swiftly to focus on the narrow terms of the motion.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Of course, I did not intend to dwell for too long on some of the other Select Committee reports, which deal with issues such as knife crime.

Before the House can make up its mind about whether individual Members are right for the Select Committee, surely we should know whether they have been on other Select Committees that have dealt with London matters.

That is a good point. I am sure that investigation would reveal first whether those Members had been on those Select Committees, and secondly whether they had participated. I think that many London Members confronted by this limited group of names will wonder why they have been left out. For example, why should we not have London questions, given that we have Welsh questions and Scottish questions?

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Members listed on the Order Paper have been appointed to an entirely superfluous body which will merely duplicate and triplicate work that is already being done perfectly adequately elsewhere?

It appears to be being suggested that there are restrictions in respect of the names that can be put forward. It is open for Opposition Members to put forward other names, however, and I hope that they do so.

Another problem is that this is costly. It is a cost that the taxpayer cannot afford, yet many Members who represent London constituencies are excluded. We could have London questions. Many of us would be willing to give that a go. We could all participate in that. We could also have a London annual debate—I understand that we used to have one—in which, again, all Members representing London seats could participate.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not many of our constituents have knocked on our doors saying they want an extra layer of government to be brought in?

That is right. Throughout the country, people’s concern is about not the quantity of government, but the quality.

Although I agree with the hon. Lady on the efficacy of the motion, will she not at least concede that tonight’s debate is about who is to serve on this Committee, that the two Members proposed are both exemplary London Members, and that we should vote for them to serve on it?

No, I do not agree at all, and I shall come on to why I have a problem with the names that the House has been presented with later on—or, rather, very shortly, Mr. Speaker.

Is not the nub of the issue what my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) said, which is simply that, regardless of who we put on to the Committee, its purpose is to scrutinise regional bodies, but a lot of London’s regional bodies report to the Mayor and there is already scrutiny of the Mayor, so this is complete duplication?

Yes, it is complete duplication, and I think it is worse than that, because we have a London assembly, and this London Select Committee is a direct vote of no confidence—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Further to your answer to the recent point of order, I note that the hon. Lady has still not got around to talking about the people named on the Order Paper. Surely she should do so straight away.

I feel absolutely confident that the hon. Gentleman is not seeking to do the work of the Chair. I know that he is a very courteous fellow, and that he recognises both what are his responsibilities and what are not. I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I shall go about the business in a proper manner.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was saying, one of the worst aspects of the motion is that it is a direct vote of no confidence by Ministers and the Government in the London assembly that they set up. Ultimately, as my—

Order. I apologise for interrupting the eloquence of the hon. Lady’s flow, but I am afraid that we really cannot go into that matter tonight for the simple reason that it has already been considered and decided by the House. The only matter to be determined tonight in respect of this motion is the list of names of people to be appointed, upon which I know the hon. Lady will now immediately focus.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me such a brilliant introduction to the next part of my remarks, because our final objection to the motion is that, at its heart, it is interfering, and that brings me on to the matter of the Members who are proposed.

I am sure that my hon. Friend is about to make a very similar point to this, but the London assembly is deliberately designed to give a clear distribution of representation across the whole of London, so that all London boroughs, whose relationship with the Mayor as the strategic authority is crucial to the delivery of London-wide services, are fairly represented, whereas the list of Members proposed indicates a very tight geographical distribution and—

Order. I shall be charitable to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) by concluding that he merely did not hear my ruling of a few moments ago to the hon. Member for Putney, because if he had heard it, I know that as he is a lawyer and an obedient sort of fellow, he would not have made a disorderly point of the kind that he has just made.

My hon. Friend refers to the fact that one of the problems with this Select Committee is that it does not necessarily have to have Members representing London committees on it, nor does it have to have any kind of composition that reflects London’s seats or the London assembly.

The Deputy Leader of the House is, of course, right on this occasion, but it is instructive to consider the constituencies that these Members represent and make the comparison with the London assembly members who have been elected by those communities. The hon. Member for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) is not from the same party as the London assembly member for London West Central. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) is not from the same party as the London assembly member that Londoners elected to represent Merton and Wandsworth. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush (Mr. Slaughter) is not from the same party as the London assembly member—

It seems as though the hon. Lady would really like to nominate some Members from her party, and I invite her to do so. If she wants to balance out the list, she should name some names.

Conservative Members know exactly how to raise London issues in this Chamber. We raise them every day that the House sits, in oral questions, in Westminster Hall debates, in Adjournment debates and whenever else we get the chance—we do not need a London Select Committee in order to hold Ministers to account.

I was talking about the constituencies that these Members represent—I can see that you find that interesting, Mr. Speaker—but I now want to discuss my concerns as to whether these Members have really reflected the wishes of Londoners when they have had the chance to represent them. One cannot help but reflect on our post office closure debate earlier last year. Londoners were extremely concerned and troubled about this matter—[Interruption.] I shall tell Labour Members what it has to do with this. Several of these Members actually voted to shut post offices when they had the chance, and I think that many Londoners would be concerned to see the ruling party put them on a Select Committee that is meant to scrutinise London issues on their behalf.

Another major issue of concern to my constituents is Heathrow. Several of the MPs being proposed for membership of this Committee voted to expand the airport when they had the chance to do so. Again, that went against the direct wishes of millions of Londoners—these Londoners voted in the Mayor, who would stand up for them on that issue. We have concerns about whether these MPs truly are the right ones to serve on a London Committee.

I note that some of those named on the Order Paper are not here tonight. Will my hon. Friend consider—if this were possible in your eyes, Mr. Speaker—tabling a manuscript amendment to nominate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), for example, who is here and who takes an active interest in proceedings? Obviously he would be better than those, such as the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), who have not bothered to turn up.

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. I think that most people would be concerned if the hon. Member for Hendon were on a Select Committee, because his questions might be longer than the actual evidence given to it.

I was looking through the résumés of some of those proposed. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) is in the Chamber tonight. It may be that he is, once again, attending the Pugwash conference—he went to the one in Canada last year. We have some concerns and we are not convinced that this is the right way to go.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) makes a very good point. Would it be in order to table a manuscript amendment that only people attending this debate could serve on the Committee?

I do not want to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman—or perhaps I do—but I fear that rather than responding directly to his observation, I must say that it was not a point of order, as he, as a very experienced Member, knows. It was, however, an interesting point of debate.

I shall start to conclude my comments, because I know, from talking to them in the Lobby earlier, that many other Members want the chance to express their concerns. Suffice it to say that this just is not good enough. The Select Committee will be in place for the term of this Parliament. It could only be a matter of days, hopefully, but it is more likely to be just a matter of months before this Parliament finishes. Even this Prime Minister will have to call an election eventually. There is simply no time for a Select Committee, even if a full set of members is nominated to serve on it, to conduct any meaningful inquiries.

There has been a lot of support for the work of the parliamentary reform Committee, which had much less time than that.

I simply do not agree with the Deputy Leader of the House. I think that we need to take these issues case by case. The reality is that this will be another talking shop that costs taxpayers more money at the time that they can least afford it. It will have members who many people outside this House will feel have not, when it came to the crunch on key London issues that mattered to them, had a track record of scrutinising this Government.

My hon. Friend talks about the election, and obviously Boris Johnson was elected as Mayor for London. Is not the concern that the genie of devolved government has got out of the bottle and that that genie is now blue, in the form of Boris Johnson? The problem is that the Government want to put that genie back in the bottle, but they cannot do that and so we have a costly, expensive, waste-of-time exercise in the form of this Committee.

My hon. Friend is right, of course. That is the ultimate accountability gap that the Government have a problem with. It is not about accountability between this House and the Mayor, but the fact that Londoners voted for the wrong Mayor from the wrong party, in Ministers’ opinion. They need to understand that there is an accountability gap, but that the only way in which it will be closed is if their Prime Minister has the guts finally to call an election and to give not just Londoners but the whole of this country the chance to vote them out and to vote in a Government who will do some work on people’s behalf. What we get with this Government is pure private interest.

I certainly agree that it is time for a general election, and the Prime Minister should call one rather than trying to do any more in the dying days of this Parliament, so that the country can get on and make the Government accountable.

On the specific issue of the regional Select Committee and its members, it is important to recognise the background. Yet again, the Government, through their majority, are imposing reform and accountability on this House rather than building consensus for that reform. The Government’s failure to engage with other parties to build cross-party consensus in introducing regional Committees has undermined the prospect of their being successful and their legitimacy.

It would be a success if the Government withdrew the motion, engaged with the other parties and came forward with proper reforms of accountability that engage the whole House. If there is a Division, the Liberal Democrats will vote against the motion, not specifically because of the proposed members of the Committee, but in protest at the way in which the Government have handled the regional Select Committee process.

May I say what a great pleasure it is to take part in this debate? These debates about London matter. For many years I have regarded myself as somebody who is from Middlesex rather than London, and I still do so, but I have to respect the fact that London is now something a bit bigger. When considering these Committees—I understand that we are considering who will sit on the London Committee—I want to know the regionality of the proposed members in the context of the historic counties. I am thinking hard about that. The area represented by the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), who is present, is probably in the historic county of Middlesex, although I do not know whether she regards it as such. The constituency of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) is a little more difficult for me; I do not know whether anyone can help me with the regionality of Islington.

If it is of any assistance to my hon. Friend, I understand that Islington was originally in the historic shrieval county of Middlesex but was subsequently incorporated into the London county council area by a London county council Act back in the 1880s.

Order. I know that the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) will understand when I say that we do not want a dewy-eyed, romantic debate about—[Interruption.] Order. The House does not want a dewy-eyed, romantic debate about geography. We are focusing, and I know that he will now focus his remarks not on geographical areas, but upon the particular qualities of the Members proposed for the Committee.

I apologise to you profusely, Mr. Speaker. It is a fault of mine to be dewy-eyed from time to time when I think about the glory of Middlesex and when I think of metroland. However, I will move on.

In today’s world, sadly, the county shires have gone and we are talking about London boroughs. That is not exactly a forward move, in my opinion, but it has happened. The hon. Member for Islington, North sometimes represents some of the more interesting republics of the world, such as Cuba, but he is a very good Member of the House. I see him on the list of Committee members and think, “That’s rather good.” He is an interesting choice, because I know a little about how these Committees are selected by those wonderful people called the Whips. I know that you have a great respect for them yourself, Mr. Speaker. Indeed, I know that that would have been one of your ambitions had you not been called to higher office. [Laughter.]

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that that was his ambition for me, but we will not go further into that.

I have many ambitions for you, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, because of your high office and despite your being a resident of London, I cannot put forward a manuscript amendment to put you on the Committee.

Before my hon. Friend finishes singing the praises of the hon. Member for Islington, North, will he remind the House that, along with the hon. Gentleman, he was one of those who robustly opposed the former Prime Minister regarding his war on Iraq?

I hate to bring politics into this debate. My right hon. Friend reminds me of the point that I was making about the hon. Member for Islington, North, who could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as one of the usual suspects or one of the Whips’ narks. I therefore regard his appointment as rather interesting and something that I should like to support.

Let me return to the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North, for whom I also have a great deal of respect. Years ago, we sat on the Committee that considered the Bill that became the Greater London Authority Act 1999. What a fantastic Committee that was to serve on, for many happy hours. Sadly, many of the other hon. Members on that Committee have now gone or passed away. The hon. Lady sat through many of those Committee sittings, as is the wont of Government Members who are not able to speak. Perhaps she would speak more on this London Committee; she is a great expert on housing in London. I respect her for that, so hers is a very useful appointment to the Committee.

The hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford)—my wife was born in Eltham—and I have crossed swords on various things. He was on the Transport Committee with me, which was very interesting. I have to say though that we differ about the expansion of Heathrow. As my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) said, Heathrow expansion is a very important matter for the whole of London.

I know that the Whips want to do the job properly—we always do. We want to make sure that democracy is seen to be done in the fullest and best way. I looked down the list of members and just when I thought I was getting cynical, just when I began to think that the Committee would be full of people who were for the third runway at Heathrow, I saw the name of the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush (Mr. Slaughter). He and I are old friends. Back in ’97, he stood against me in a by-election. What a charming man he was—he let me win. I am sure he did so out of the goodness of his heart, and if it comes to a vote I might find it difficult in my heart to say that the man who let me come into this place to serve my Uxbridge constituents might not be allowed to be on the Committee.

Since the hon. Gentleman ceased to be a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department for Transport, he has been a redoubtable opponent of the third runway. Maybe—just maybe—there is some balance in the list.

I am sure that my hon. Friend comes to the debate with clean hands, but perhaps not dry hands, because behind the scenes he plays a part in the selection process. One of the criticisms we have faced from the Government Benches is that there have been no nominations from the Opposition. Can my hon. Friend tell the House, therefore, how it is that the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) appears on the list?

My right hon. Friend raises an interesting point that I would have come to later. Presumably, the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) has been put on by the Government Whips, and the Committee of Selection has put his name forward. I do not know, but perhaps it is something we should explore. In fact, I see the hon. Gentleman poised like a crouching tiger, so he may want to raise that point.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman—my erstwhile Friend. I wonder whether Members on both sides of the House realise how easy it is to get on one of these Committees. All they have to do is volunteer. I am not sure about our side, because as you know, Mr. Speaker, we are not keen on this Committee, for the reasons my hon. Friend the Member for Putney gave. I do not want to go down that line, but the Committee does seem a complete waste of time.

It does indeed seem a complete waste of time, but it seems likely that the Chairman of the Committee will be paid an extra salary, or is that not the case? If it is the case, should not any Member put forward for the Committee abstain from voting, because there will be a conflict of interest?

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. From the look on the faces of those on the Government Benches, I am afraid he is incorrect. The role of Chairman will not be a paid position, and the House welcomes that. My hon. Friend and I go back a long way—

A very long way, but I think he is wrong on this point. Everybody has a right to vote on the motion.

As a relative newcomer to the House, I listened intently to my hon. Friend’s words about procedure and about some of the Members who will serve on the Committee. He made the point that Government members of Select Committees usually stay silent. Given that the Committee will be made up of Government appointees and volunteers, will it be a silent Committee?

Is it not sad to find such cynicism? As you know as a former member of the Chairmen’s Panel, Mr. Speaker, before you reached your great position, it is accepted on Standing Committees that Government members will be quiet, and on a Select Committee Government members will do very much as they are told. I cannot see the proposed Committee being any different.

I am enjoying the hon. Gentleman’s sarcasm, but does he not think that if what he describes is how the House conducts its affairs, there is something rotten about this place?

Even more cynicism. [Interruption.] As an excellent voice behind me says, perhaps that cynicism could be removed by an election, letting the people of this country decide what they want.

It may be lost on the hon. Gentleman that we have just had an election in this country, and his party lost severely. What part of the new Tory one-party project did the people of Glasgow, North-East misunderstand?

Don’t you just love the Scots, Mr. Speaker? Marvellous. I could, although I am sure you would tell me off for this—

We have had national elections, European elections and a few others. Remind me where the Labour party came in the European elections.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is being led astray, and I know that he would not want to be led astray. He will want to return to the list, with a number of whose members he has dealt, but there are at least one or two whom he has not yet mentioned. He may have further suggestions and he needs to come on to them.

I am incredibly grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, as always. I was led astray. I have some Scottish blood in me. When I heard the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan), I thought I must continue the argument, but I will not. I will get back to the point.

Let me help my hon. Friend, who is making an interesting contribution. I came here to vote against the names proposed because I think they are the wrong people for the wrong Committee. He seems to be praising them. Will he give me some arguments so that I can vote against them?

I am not here to upset people on the other side of the House. When it comes to general elections, there may be many arguments why the people on the list will not be suitable for re-election, but this debate is not about re-election. This is not about how they have let the country down, how the country is in a very bad way and all the rest of it. This is about serving on a regional Select Committee—a Select Committee that we think is a complete waste of time.

However, Mr. Speaker, you entreated me to mention some other names. One of the things that I would like to ask the Government is why they have omitted some of the stars on their Benches. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) is a shining example of somebody who could speak endlessly for the Select Committee. I come in on many a Friday, and I am just amazed by his elocution and his ability to talk about not very much. That might make him a very worthy member of the Select Committee.

I have now seen enter the Chamber and sit on the Labour Benches somebody of whom I genuinely want to speak highly. I do not think that it would be fair for me to say—[Interruption.] I shall name him, but my hon. Friends should control themselves.

No. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), my constituency neighbour, is genuinely free-minded. He is far devolved from me in politics. He is a little to the right of me, I think, and he would not let me join the Campaign group, because he said that I was too left wing. The reason why he has not been suggested for the Committee may not be that he rebels against the Government; it may be that he spends a lot of time doing other things in his constituency and, rather like me, feels that this Regional Select Committee might be a waste of his time.

My hon. Friend just mentioned the importance of the Members listed in the motion working hard in their constituencies. If this Regional Select Committee is set up, it may well, like the Welsh Affairs Committee on which I have the pleasure of serving, spend some of its time on visits abroad, taking Members away from their constituency. Does my hon. Friend think that a good or bad thing?

I am absolutely sure that this Select Committee will not venture far. It may not even cross the M25. There are so many issues in London which we Conservatives want to discuss, albeit it in another place and not in this forum, but even the Government, while they are setting up this Committee—

In discussing possible members of the Committee, why did my hon. Friend not refer to the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton)? He has 30 years’ experience of what has happened in Wandsworth council—delivering the lowest community charge or council tax in the country.

The reason why I did not consider the hon. Gentleman is that he had nothing to do with delivering the lowest council tax, and if he had his way it would be put up.

As we are considering possible members, does my hon. Friend recall that the definition of a cockney used to be that he or she was born within the sound of Bow bells? Can he think of anybody who has experience of bells ringing or bell towers who might add to the experience of the Committee?

My hon. Friend leads me up to a line that I shall not go down. I am not a sheep that will be led easily on these matters.

Order. I am very glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman is not going to go down that route, and there are two very good reasons why he should not. First, it would of course be constitutionally absurd for him to propose a member of Her Majesty’s Government as a member of this Select Committee—[Interruption.] That is the position, I am telling the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway), for his benefit and that of the House. Secondly, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) should not be proposing for membership of the Committee a Member representing a Lincolnshire constituency.

If we take the example of the Welsh Affairs Committee, on which, indeed, there are Members who represent constituencies outside the Principality, why could not Members from outside London sit on the London Committee?

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to tell my hon. Friend that the reason nobody from outside London can sit on this Committee is that you, Sir, have spoken, and your word is law. If you, Sir, have made a pronouncement that this regional Select Committee for London shall never, ever have a member who sits outside London, then, whether it is constitutional or not, I would regard it as gospel.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his helpful confirmation that he will accept the will of the Chair, but I think he really knows that I am gently encouraging him to concentrate on the people he would like to see as members of the Committee and not to spend an enormous amount of time dilating on the reasons why somebody should not be a member of the Committee.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, how genuinely grateful I am for your guidance on these matters. The hour is getting late, and I feel that sometimes somebody like me, who is not used to public speaking, will benefit from your guidance.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have been a great advocate of trying to modernise this House and make it relevant to the people outside and the people inside. The behaviour of the official Opposition tonight is disgraceful. The public schoolboy attitude of Conservative Members demonstrates their insincerity. Every Thursday, you and I hear the shadow Leader of the House complaining about the lack of time for parliamentary debates. The way they are behaving tonight is an absolute disgrace—they are purely filibustering and trying to waste time, and the general public will see them for what they are.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Would that I could describe that as a point of order; I am not sure that it quite qualifies for that description. However, he has registered his views with great force, and they are now firmly on the record.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the motion in the name of the Prime Minister at the top of page 377 of the Order Paper? If the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) feels that this is abuse, should he not have voted against what was moved in the name of the Prime Minister at 10 o’clock?

The right hon. Gentleman is a very old hand—if memory serves me correctly, he has now served in this House for 23 years and either seven or eight months—so he knows very well that in making that point with his characteristic force he has made a very good debating point but not a point of order.

It is wonderful to hear your words, Mr. Speaker, because they are the voice of reason.

The interesting point made by the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North is that it would have been fantastic if we could have had this debate before 10 o’clock. In fact, there are many opportunities where we do not vote and could have had this debate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin), who is second only to you, Mr. Speaker, in my esteem on these matters—[Interruption.] I am choosing my words very carefully. As my right hon. Friend said, there were opportunities to do this at another hour. I regret this situation, because I want to get back home to Uxbridge—in Middlesex, and still in London—but I feel so strongly that we must debate the matter that I will continue.

Does my hon. Friend share my dismay at the omission from the Committee of the witty repartee of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), who could bring to it the experience of living in a Conservative borough that this Christmas is giving £50 back to its residents?

If I allow myself to go back to the heady days of the debates on the Greater London Authority Act 1999, I remember that there we were sitting there one evening, late into the night. The hon. Member for Ealing, North who, as my hon. Friend says, is a very witty Member, said that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) resembled a giraffe. I did not know what that had to do with anything, but I found out later that the hon. Gentleman was on a wager to mention the word “giraffe” in a speech. I tried to think what he himself reminded me of in the way of animals of the savannah, and all I could think of was a dik-dik, which is a small antelope.

The point that I am making, which I think is valid, is that if we are to have a Select Committee—[Interruption.] I say to the hon. Member for somewhere north of Watford that I do not interfere in the matters of the Scottish Affairs Committee. If the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North wants to go home, he should go home. I am not forcing him to stay here. If he wants to discuss London, he should stay here; if he wants to go home to Scotland, good luck to him. Now, we should return to the important subject—

Order. Yes, I am very happy, indeed extremely eager, that the hon. Gentleman should return to the terms of the motion. Without wanting in any way to be personal about it, may I entreat him to focus on the overall qualities of possible members of the Committee? I do not think it is seemly or appropriate for him to dilate on the physical characteristics of either the hon. Member for Croydon, South or the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

I will bear that in mind, but I have to say that I was not actually referring to any physical proportion; I was actually talking about their spirituality. If you understood the dik-dik, which is a sly creature, alert in the undergrowth just waiting to be predated, you might find that. However, I get the general drift that we have to move on a little. We have only just started on west London.

My hon. Friend gave the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) some advice a moment ago, telling him that he could go home. Is that advice available to those in all parts of the House?

You will know, Mr. Speaker, that it is not within my power to keep anybody here. All I know is that the Order Paper states:

“Debate may continue until any hour, if the 10.00 pm Business of the House motion is agreed to.”

I believe it was. Perhaps, given modernisation, we should consider whether we can come back tomorrow and vote on the motion. I did not realise that I was going to speak on this—

Order. I am listening with the closest interest and respect to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, as he would anticipate, but may I say to him that although, as he rightly states, it is noted on the Order Paper that the debate “may” run until any hour, there is a difference between that and “shall” run until any hour?

I do not really understand what “any hour” means in this sense, Mr. Speaker. Whether it is “may” or “shall”, “any hour” could mean any particular time. We recognise that the House is a place for debate. I am sorry that it has come to this so late.

May I take my hon. Friend back to about 15 minutes into his oratory, when he talked about the suitability of particular locations for members of the Committee? Much to my chagrin, St. Albans has been designated part of the north London arc. I disagree with being part of it, because we think we are in Hertfordshire, but I completely agree that perhaps we have not looked at the right mix for the Committee.

My hon. Friend raises a very important point, because a Regional Select Committee for London will have to address Crossrail, for example, and transport in a wider aspect. Many who commute into London do not live within London’s boundaries. Therefore, it might be appropriate for those who commute from outside London to be members of the Committee.

While we are talking about Crossrail, which I am, I wonder how many hon. Members named in the motion will be affected by it. Some will be, and it is good that they will be represented, but there is also the question of London underground, which is a very important matter to my constituents—I mentioned Heathrow earlier, but the underground is also important. I am looking through the list here, and I am not too sure how many of the hon. Members on it have underground stations in their constituencies, although rather peculiarly, even if they do, someone else might say, “What about the overground?” because there might be a bias for underground.

My hon. Friend will recognise that overground transport is a key issue in London. The London borough of Bromley, which I happen to represent, has something like 23 overground railway stations, but not a single Member whose constituency is on the overground has been proposed to sit on the Committee. The same applies to a number of other London boroughs. Should we not perhaps rehearse the number of London boroughs that have overground stations only, and not underground stations—

Order. The hon. Gentleman asks whether that matter should be rehearsed. The clear and explicit answer is no.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I am so grateful to you, because sometimes there is a temptation to go down the wrong line—I do not mean underground line.

It is a great place to come from, but one proposed member of the Committee who comes from south of the river is not here this evening. Mr. Speaker, you entreated my hon. Friend to talk about some of the qualities that the candidates will need. One is scrutiny. Does my hon. Friend want to compare and contrast the qualities of the proposed Members against the Greater London authority members who are already going to fulfil that function for us?

My hon. Friend asks a very good question. I am not sure that I am able in any way to go down that line.

My hon. Friend says he thinks the Select Committee should talk about issues such as Crossrail, but people in my constituency think that an awful lot of money is spent on transport in the south-east and that we in Yorkshire do not get our fair share. Surely if the Committee is going to talk about very expensive projects such as Crossrail, there should be a Yorkshire perspective on it—I hasten to add that I am not volunteering.

Perhaps I was a little harsh with the hon. Gentleman opposite from Scotland. Therefore, much as I would like to agree with my hon. Friend, if I was harsh with the hon. Gentleman, I have to be harsh with him, because this is a London or south-east matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) asked me—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I just point out that I am not the Member for Scotland? I am the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North. I must say that the anti-Scottishness coming from the Opposition demonstrates why there will never be a Conservative MP in Scotland.

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is so excited. I know it is late and that he wants to go home, but in fact, as I was saying, I have a lot of Scottish blood flowing through my veins.

Like the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan), I am a Scot, and proudly so. May I say that my hon. Friend has shown me nothing but kindness during my years in this House? However, speaking on behalf of my constituents in Surrey Heath in this United Kingdom Parliament, may I draw his attention to the fact that my constituents, who depend on South West Trains, would like to see two particular Labour Members on the Committee, namely the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson), because Eurostar has moved from Waterloo and now terminates in his constituency, and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), because Waterloo, Clapham Junction and Vauxhall are the three stations whose pointing and track systems have a direct effect on the speed with which my constituents can travel from Camberley, Frimley, Bagshot, Ash Vale, Farnborough Main and Farnborough North Camp—

I thank my hon. Friend for assuring the House that I have no feelings of antipathy towards Scotland. In fact, I admire the Scots. In many respects, and speaking as a retailer, I wish that I had been Scottish myself as I would like to uphold many of their qualities.

I am enjoying the best after-dinner speech that I have heard all year. Is not the solution to the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the quality of rail services in London for Conservative Members to do the work that they are paid for and to sit on this Committee?

When I first came into this House, there was no Greater London assembly or Mayor for London. Therefore, in 1997, the hon. Gentleman’s words would have been correct. Unfortunately for him, today there are many elected members representing our boroughs in London, and therefore his point is not that well made.

On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) makes an extremely good point. I had almost forgotten about the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson). For many years, I was a voter in that constituency as a student. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was standing then, otherwise I might have had to consider my vote. We bearded chaps have to stick together. It is true that he would be a sane voice.

One of the things that I find fascinating about this place—I am sure that you have observed it from your position, Mr. Speaker—is that those people on the way up sometimes do not speak as forthrightly as they do once they have been up and are on the way down. Therefore, I find that the people to whom we should listen most in this House are those who have been there, done it and do not want any more preferment. Suddenly, their words have even more credence. I know the right hon. Gentleman to be a fine Member of Parliament.

Does my hon. Friend think that those hon. Members suggested for the Committee are on their way up or on their way down?

If my hon. Friend asks about our hon. Friends, I might give him an opinion, but I will not speak for the Government Benches—

On a point of order, it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman. He will not speak for the Government, but I will. I beg to move that the question be now put—[Interruption.]

Order. I do not require any help from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway). For the avoidance of doubt, I can tell hon. Members that when appointments to other Select Committees are contested, Standing Order No. 15(1)(c) provides for a debate for up to one hour before the question is put. That is the conclusive response to the hon. Gentleman.

claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Motion made, and Question put accordingly,

That Ms Karen Buck, Jeremy Corbyn, Clive Efford, Siobhain McDonagh, Mr Andy Slaughter and Mr Andrew Pelling be members of the London Regional Select Committee.