Cookies: We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. By continuing to use the site you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
House of Commons Hansard
x
Chair (Terminology)
04 March 2010
Volume 506

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I beg to move,

(1) That this House approves recommendation 3 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008-09, HC 1117; and

(2) That accordingly, in each place where they occur in any Standing Order related to Public Business, Order or Resolution of the House, except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4) below:

(a) for “chairman” there shall be substituted “chair”;

(b) for “chairmen” there shall be substituted “chairs”; and

(c) for “Chairmen’s Panel” there shall be substituted “Panel of Chairs”;

(3) That the following changes to Standing Orders be made:

(a) In Standing Order No. 9 (Sittings of the House)—

(i) in line 25, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”,

(ii) in line 32, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”, and

(iii) in line 37, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”;

(b) In Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings), in line 29, leave out “chairman” and insert

“occupant of the chair”; and

(c) In Standing Order No. 35 (Dilatory motion in abuse of the rules of the House), line 10, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”;

(4) That this order shall not apply to the titles of Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Chairman or Chairmen or the Lord Chairman of Committees where they occur in any Standing Order, Order or Resolution of the House.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

With this it will be convenient to discuss motions 4 to 8.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The House now has an opportunity to consider and vote on the recommendations of the Select Committee on House of Commons Reform. That includes the motions that I have tabled and the amendments that have been selected.

We had a constructive debate on the Committee’s proposals last Monday. At the end of that debate, 11 of the Government’s 16 motions were agreed to unanimously, without Division. What we agreed included the following on strengthening Select Committees: a time frame for the establishment of Select Committees within six weeks of the start of a new Parliament; reducing the size of some Committees to make them more effective, with a standard membership of only 11; and a review of the role, resources and tasks of Select Committees by the Liaison Committee. We agreed that there would be a vote in the next Parliament on September sittings. We agreed that we should have greater engagement of the public with our proceedings by providing more opportunities for them to influence draft Bills. We agreed a range of reforms of the petitioning system, including a process for petitions to trigger debates; and we agreed to give more power to Back Benchers, with a new procedure for them to move substantive motions that can be voted on.

Today we have the opportunity to go further. We will have a further short debate and then proceed to vote on the remaining proposals of the Commons Reform Committee. As we have already debated these recommendations for many hours, I propose to speak very fast—I was going to say that I would speak briefly, but I realise that I have quite a long speech to make, so I shall make up in speed what I am not able to do in length.

The House needs reform to give more power to Back Benchers, to give the House more power over the Government. We have already made progress on strengthening the House of Commons over the past 13 years.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Will the Leader of the House give way?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

This is House business; the motions are on the Order Paper, there is no whipping and there is no insight I can give that hon. Members cannot work out for themselves by reading it, so I am not going to take interventions. I say that because this is not about me; it is about every individual Member of this House making their decision. The hon. Gentleman can therefore ask himself the question and answer it.

We are not starting from scratch; the proposals that we return to today are not the beginning of reform, nor will they be the end of reform, but they are substantial reforms and, once again, I wish to record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) and the other members of the Committee for their work. I thank him for his proposal to establish the Committee, which I readily supported.

Today’s business enables Members to have a series of votes on the Commons Reform Committee’s proposals. I shall address the motions in the order in which they will be put to the House. Motion 3 removes the term “chairman” from the Standing Orders and replaces it with the term “chair”, and I support it. Motion 4 creates a new Standing Order with effect from the beginning of the next Parliament, which provides for a process for electing the Chairs of departmental and similar Select Committees by secret ballot of the whole House, based on party distributions proposed by the Speaker and agreed by the parties and the House. Amendment (p), which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and others, would add the Procedure Committee to the list of Committees whose Chairs are to be elected in this way. The Commons Reform Committee recommended that this procedure should apply to

“departmental and similar select committees”.

The Procedure Committee is not a departmental or similar Select Committee; it is, as we Latin scholars would say, sui generis. The amendment goes beyond the scope of the recommendation and for that reason I shall be voting against it. Nor shall I be supporting amendment (o), which stands in the names of the hon. Members for Christchurch and for North Thanet (Mr. Gale).

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

rose

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I have realised that my “no giving way” policy is not going to cut the mustard, so I will just finish this paragraph and then give way.

Amendment (o) would allow any Member of the House to move a motion allocating Select Committee Chairs to parties if the party leaders fail to do so within two weeks of the start of a Parliament. This is a matter that the Reform Committee envisages should continue to be settled by negotiation between the parties, but this is ultimately a matter for the judgment of the House. I shall not be supporting the amendment, but it will not be the end of the world if the House passes it.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

On the election of the members and the Chair of the Procedure Committee, does the Leader of the House accept that it would be very odd if the House was not to elect those members, given the increased role that the Procedure Committee will have? It will have a crucial role in taking forward these reforms in future, so is this not a matter of the Wright Committee having left this out by oversight rather than intent?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

If my hon. Friend, who has done a lot of work on these issues, takes that view, he does not need to agree with me and he can vote in his own way on that amendment.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

rose—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he still wants to ask a question and has not lost the will to live.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I am almost there, listening to the right hon. and learned Lady. What I would like to know is how she envisages the rights of minority parties being accommodated within the Back-Bench Procedure Committee.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

There is no proposal at the moment for changing the arrangements in relation to the Procedure Committee, so I think that matter will just have to be dealt with in the usual way. However, I will take an opportunity to ask the Deputy Leader of the House to get back to the hon. Gentleman on that when she makes her concluding remarks.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

rose—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to make an intervention that suggests the answer to this, he may do so.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

No, no. What I would like to ask the right hon. and learned Lady is how she will accommodate the interests of minority parties on the Back-Bench business committee.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

That question shows why we have further details to work out on that, and I agree that it is an important matter.

Amendment (q), which stands in the name of the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), seeks to ensure that the Chair of that Committee will always be an Opposition Member. This is already the long-established convention and there is no intention of changing it. The Chair of that Committee has always and should always be held by an Opposition Member, and I hope that on the basis of that assurance he does not feel the need to press his amendment to a vote.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Does the Leader of the House agree a number of Committees—not just the Public Accounts Committee—ought to be chaired by a Member of the Opposition? I have sat on the European Scrutiny Committee now for 25 years and it has always been the case that the chairmanship of that Committee was in the gift of the Opposition. Does she agree that that should apply, as it does to the Public Accounts Committee and the Committees that consider secondary legislation, because these are scrutiny Committees?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

We have brought forward the proposals that were made by the Wright Committee. If the hon. Gentleman agrees with them, he can support them, and if he does not, he can vote against them. There is an evolving process and no doubt other Committees that are not departmental or similar will have to be considered as we go along.

Motion 5 runs alongside motion 4 and provides a mechanism for Chairs to resign or to be removed by a no-confidence vote in the Select Committee so that a ballot for a new Chair can take place. Without that provision there would be no effective trigger for replacing a Chair once that Chair had been elected.

Motion 6 endorses the Wright Committee’s proposal for the election of Select Committee members, with each party being responsible for electing its own members by secret ballot. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) and several of his colleagues on the Liaison Committee have tabled amendment (a) to the motion, which would allow the Speaker and the Committee of Selection to propose to the House that a Select Committee member whose attendance was less than 60 per cent over the course of a Session should be discharged. I agree with the Reform Committee’s recommendation that there should be “clear consequences” for non-attendance by Select Committee members, but I think we should reflect further before we embark on the Liaison Committee’s approach.

The competing claims on Members’ time will sometimes mean that individuals’ attendance drops below 60 per cent. for perfectly good reasons. In fact, six of the hon. Members who signed the motion attended less than 60 per cent. of Liaison Committee meetings in the last Session and the Liaison Committee’s overall attendance was only 50.6 per cent., so I am sure they will accept the point about the demands on hon. Members’ time. We can think further about the matter so I ask them not to press for a vote. The principle was right but we need to think about how we take it forward.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

It is because those very factors need to be taken into account that the amendment is phrased in a way that makes it an enabling amendment—it does not say that the Speaker “should” recommend such action, but leaves it to the Speaker’s discretion. There is no compulsion about it.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

My right hon. Friend’s amendment takes a particular track and sets a particular percentage level, and it might be that we can do better than that. However, we might, in the end, find that that is the best way we can do it. I know that the members of that Committee have given it a great deal of thought. Obviously, it is entirely for hon. Members to decide whether to press the amendment to a Division and for other hon. Members to decide how to vote. I have simply offered the House my views.

Motion 7 approves the Wright Committee’s recommendation for a Back-Bench business committee to schedule Back-Bench business. Amendment (b) in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and amendment (c) in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase call for the establishment of a Back-Bench business committee in time for the beginning of the next Parliament. I think it is right that the House should be able to reach a decision tonight on the establishment of a committee.

The effect of the two amendments would be broadly similar, but I personally suggest that colleagues support amendment (b), which provides greater clarity on the number of days the Back-Bench business committee will have at its disposal. It also offers a more flexible approach—[Interruption.] There is no need for hon. Members to protest. They have the motion and both the amendments and they can decide for themselves which to vote for. I would say, if I can just get on with giving my humble opinion, that amendment (b) provides greater clarity on the number of days that the Back-Bench business committee will have at its disposal. It also offers a more flexible approach for the new committee whereas amendment (c) includes a number of stipulations that could have the effect of tying the hands of a newly established business committee. I think flexibility will be important in the successful operation of the new system so that the business committee has maximum freedom of operation.

I will also, as I have already said—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Will the right hon. and learned Lady give way on that point?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

No.

I will also be supporting amendment (a) to motion 7, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase. The amendment endorses the establishment of a House business committee, during the course of the next Parliament, to include Government business. However, I do not agree with amendment (d), which lists a number of the committee’s other recommendations to be considered in the next Parliament. I think it is right to leave that decision to the next Parliament, so I shall not support it and shall vote against it for that reason.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Will the Leader of the House give way?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), among others, will get to speak. The hon. Gentleman has played a leading part in the debate. I do not have any better answers, and I am sure he will value his own opinion more than mine when it comes to deciding how he will vote. This is House business and we are now at the point of just making decisions.

I have tabled motion 8 to give effect to the Procedure Committee’s recommendations on the election of Deputy Speakers by ballot. Although the motion is new, the changes were approved by the House in principle on 6 January. Motion 8 moves the matter forward by providing an opportunity for the House to agree the Procedure Committee’s detailed proposals for putting the recommendations into action. I again thank the Committee for its work. We will be allowing a free vote on this matter and on all the Reform Committee’s proposals.

All this is House business, and the House today has an opportunity to approve the remainder of the Committee’s recommendations. Let me conclude by saying that today is an important milestone in the history of the reform of this House. I hope we will seize the opportunity to agree this package of reforms which, if passed today, will, when added to what we agreed last Monday, be the most far-reaching package of reforms ever agreed. It will take forward the Prime Minister’s commitment, which he set out in “The Governance of Britain”, to make the Executive more accountable to Parliament and to reinvigorate our democracy. We will be ensuring that there is more power for Back Benchers and we will be strengthening the House’s ability to hold the Government to account. I commend the motions to the House.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

There are 69 minutes left for this debate, so I propose to follow the right hon. and learned Lady’s example and keep my remarks to a basic minimum.

I set out my views on most of these issues last Monday when I urged the House to seize this opportunity for reform and to make faster progress than was envisaged in the Government’s initial resolutions. I note in passing that it is sad that we have roughly eight sitting days left before the likely date of Dissolution in which to make the changes to our Standing Orders that are needed to bring in some of the motions before us at the beginning of the next Parliament. I shall not repeat the contrast that has been made between the speed and urgency of the Wright Committee’s work and the foot-dragging of the Government.

In addition to the reforms of the Wright Committee and all the proposed amendments, some of which raise new issues, we are addressing the Procedure Committee’s report on the election of Deputy Speakers. That sits a little uneasily with the comment made by the right hon. and learned Lady last week in business questions that, as far as she was concerned,

“we have debated the Wright Committee report enough”.—[Official Report, 25 February 2010; Vol. 506, c. 452.]

Two hours might have been enough to debate the Wright Committee, but we now have an extra report to debate in the time allotted for one. As has been said several times today, given that the principle behind the reports is the empowerment of Back Benchers, it is ironic that the Government have programmed the debate to restrict Back-Bench contributions. If, as I hope, we support these reforms in the Division Lobbies later, the House may never again be forced to plead for more time from the Government to debate its own business. The past few months have demonstrated more effectively even than the report why the Government need to relinquish their control of Parliament’s agenda.

I believe that the resolutions represent our best opportunity for decades to start rebalancing the terms of trade away from the Executive and to start strengthening Parliament and making it more effective, more accountable and more relevant to the people outside it. That is why I intend to support the Government’s motions on the election of Select Committee Chairmen and members, as well as the amendments that would establish a House business committee during the next Parliament and give further consideration in the next Parliament to all the remaining recommendations that the Government have left on the cutting room floor. I hope that the right hon. and learned Lady will demonstrate a similar commitment to reform when she is in the Lobbies.

As for the amendment on the election of the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, that is not one of the changes advocated by the Wright Committee, which merely proposed electing the Chairmen of departmental Select Committees. I just make the point that it seems slightly illogical not to extend such elections to other Committees in addition to the Procedure Committee.

On the Back-Bench business committee, I intend to vote for amendment (b), which I should like to move at the appropriate move.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

All the advice that I have taken from the Clerks suggests that, because the Procedure Committee itself will be elected, it is something of a lacuna in the report that its Chairman will not be. I hope that my Front Benchers will support that amendment.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

As I said, it is a free vote, but I make the point that this was not an original recommendation of the Wright Committee.

On the Back-Bench committee, I intend to vote for amendment (b). I do not agree with the Government’s resolution, as it fails to get the committee up and running by the beginning of the next Parliament, which is my preferred time scale. As I have said before, I want the Back-Bench committee to be given progressively more influence—first over the set-piece debates, in whatever configuration it prefers, and then over the general debates. That would then lead to its being given a day or half a day a week for Back-Bench business.

The Wright Committee report is absolutely clear, stating that these proposals would

“inevitably need implementation in stages.”

It recognises that the pieces of the jigsaw should not be put together all at once on day one, and that brings me to the difficulties that I see with amendment (c). That amendment risks making worse one of the central problems that the Wright Committee has sought to address—the lack of time for the Report stage of Bills.

The assumption in paragraphs 31 and 32 of the report is that, whatever approach we adopt, the totality of sitting days and hours should remain roughly the same. Given the finite amount of available time, the more time that is spent on general debates, the less time, by definition, will be available for Government business.

My amendment (b) would allocate 27 days in total to the Back-Bench committee—the 15 set-piece days, and the 12 general debates. Amendment (c), by virtue of its endorsement of recommendation 30, would allocate the committee one day a week, which by the Wright Committee’s reckoning amounts to 35 days. The difference between the two amendments is that mine could allow seven extra days for the Report stage of Bills, whereas that would be lost if we opt for amendment (c). I urge the House to think carefully about that before making its decision later.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

As a member of the Wright Committee, I would like to explain our approach to the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with much of what he has said about the 27 days, but topical debates ought to be a matter for the Back-Bench business committee. When added up, they amount to another seven days. The other three days for his 35 could be used for debates on Members’ pay and allowances, for example, or for matters such as those relating to the hon. Member whose offices were raided by the police. Such matters should rightly be for the House and not in the purview of the Government, whichever party is in office.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I agree that the Back-Bench committee should allocate the subjects for topical debates. I conceded that on Monday, and that should happen. I also think the committee should allocate the 15 set-piece days and the 12 days devoted to general debates. The Wright Committee wants an extra seven days, and my fear is that that would mean less time on Report.

Paragraph 109 of the Wright report states that the lack of time on Report is the

“single greatest cause of dissatisfaction”

with the current scheduling of legislative business. That is why I prefer the configuration in my amendment (b) to that in amendment (c).

I am not standing in the way of progress. An initial amendment proposed kicking the Back-Bench committee into touch—that is, into the next Parliament—whereas I think it should be established much earlier. That now appears to command widespread support.

On the House business committee, we have seen three victories: first, in ensuring that its consideration was within the original terms of reference; secondly, in ensuring that it can be voted on today; and thirdly—and I am grateful for this—in securing the support of the Leader of the House for the committee, soon after she had initially ruled it out.

We have made real progress, but I think we should go further. We should end the automatic guillotine at Committee stage, and abolish the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee. I also think we should enable Select Committee Chairmen to launch their reports on the Floor of the House—as the Chairman of the Defence Committee could have done today, with his report on procurement. In addition, we should allow the Opposition to trade Opposition days for topical statements, and introduce broader measures to re-engage the public, reduce the size of Parliament and cut the costs of politics.

Finally, on the election of the Deputy Speakers, I welcome the report from the Procedure Committee, which is well-reasoned and eminently sensible. I look forward to hearing the Chairman of the Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), explain the proposals in greater detail. As someone who has had passing experience of the system for the election of Speaker, using both a secret and an open ballot, I was pleased to have the opportunity to pass on my views to the Committee in an informal session, and I am glad that two of my suggestions have been incorporated into the report.

I agree with the Procedure Committee that, unlike with the election of the Speaker, there is no need for Deputy Speakers to issue manifestos, because it is an entirely different kind of role. I should make it clear that, in supporting the Committee’s report, I do not want to suggest in any way that the current system of selection of Deputy Speakers does not deliver excellent candidates to the Speaker’s team, which it does.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that when you blow the final whistle at 3.41, the reformers will be able to take away from the pitch some of the trophies.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I listened to what the Leader of the House had to say about her own tactic in providing time for others, which was to speak allegretto. I will maintain a more stately andante, but I hope to be brief. I repeat the point that today’s debate is not about what we say from Front-Bench positions; it is about what right hon. and hon. Members have to say on the recommendations. We have already had the debate on many of these issues.

I will briefly give an opinion on the points before us today. I find it difficult to get really worked up about motion 3, but it is better to refer to the position as “Chair” rather than “Chairman”. I note in passing that those who are most adamant that they will never accept the word “Chair” are quite happy to refer to “the Crown” on the ground that a hat is somehow more appropriate than a piece of furniture for describing a position. I am not sure that I understand that distinction.

I hope that we will be able to support motion 4 and all the amendments. The position of the Chair of the Procedure Committee is important and I am glad that that amendment has been tabled. The Public Accounts Committee should be chaired by a Chairman from the official Opposition. That is a sensible provision within our Standing Orders.

I agree with motion 5. I also agree with motion 6. The Chairman of the Liaison Committee brings forward an important point about non-attendance at Committees. Whether this is the right way to deal with it I do not know, but it has been notable that some major departmental Committees have struggled to reach a quorum on too many occasions. If this is not the answer, we must find another. I would support this because it is a permissive power, not a requirement, and I hope we might consider that today.

The most important matter is motion 7 and the amendments to it. I heard what the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said in supporting his amendment (b). I am not persuaded that it does not provide for a more restrictive solution than amendment (c). The two are in direct opposition. If (b) is passed, (c) cannot be put. Therefore, I invite hon. Members to oppose amendment (b) and support amendment (c), which is a more satisfactory solution. If proof of that is needed, Members need only look at the collusion between Members of the two Front Benches here to see where the Executive would like us to vote. I invite the House to vote for amendment (c).

However, most importantly, I hope that amendment (a) is passed. This is the key vote to give control of the timetable of debate in the House back to Members of the House, taking it away from the Executive. If we cannot achieve that, we will have failed as a House in our debates on this matter. I hope that the House is up to the task of agreeing to amendment (a) today. I support amendment (d) because those are the matters the Wright Committee considered, and which the Leader of the House for some reason would not put before the House. They should have been put before the House, they have been now and we can agree to the amendment.

Motion 8 concerns the election of the Deputy Speakers. I know how hard the Procedure Committee worked on this, and it came forward with cogent views on the election. I have just one caveat, which is that if we are successful in the early amendments—I say “we”; those who think like I do that we need a business committee of the House—the Chairman of Ways and Means will have a new and important full-time role in organising the business of the House. That suggests a need for an additional Deputy Speaker. I made that point in evidence to the Wright Committee, but today’s change in Standing Orders will not provide for that eventuality, and I regret that.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The Procedure Committee considered that very point, and we are of the view that the matter should be revisited in the next Parliament.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that. If we agree to that new role for the Chairman of Ways and Means subsequent to today’s votes, however, we will need to prepare for that, so that in the new Parliament we can deal with it as a first instance.

I need not detain the House any longer. Some have described today as an historic day of reform—I am sorry, but I cannot bring myself to think that way. An Everest of reform is necessary if we are to bring this House and our politics generally up to speed—into the 21st century—and make it fit for purpose. Evolution is a slow process at the moment, and we still do not fit the ecological niche that we need to fit. If we were climbing Everest, we would simply be at base camp, but if the House cannot even get to base camp, we will have failed the people who have elected us and want us to make this House fit for purpose.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I am sorry that I was not able to take part in last week’s debate about these issues, but I have read it with care. I rise to speak, briefly, only because I share the universal view of Members that it is important to do everything that we can to increase the public’s confidence in the House. However, I must confess to a degree of scepticism about the contribution that all the changes will make to that process, even if they are all carried, and I think that many, if not all, will be. The public’s confidence will increase when they believe and have evidence that their top priorities are also ours.

That brings me to my concerns about the variety of proposals before the House. My first concern relates to motion 7 and amendment (a), to which the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who has just spoken, directed most of his remarks. Reading the Wright Committee report and last week’s debate, I was struck forcefully by the degree to which the context and culture of the proposals are, first, rooted in most Members’ experience of the House: one in which the Government of the day have a comfortable majority; and—with deep respect to members of the minority parties—one in which there are not so many minority parties and few non-party Members. That might not be the structure of the next House of Commons, and nothing says that it is compelled to be the structure of future Houses, either.

Further to the structure of and voting power in the House, the second point that runs culturally through the proposals is an assumption of understanding and co-operation between all players. That will be absolutely crucial if a business committee is to work, whether it is a Back-Bench business committee or a House business committee. However, having served on a House Committee, as only one or two other participants in our debate have done, I do not share the assumption and confidence of all those who spoke in last week’s debate that such understanding and co-operation is a given.

That brings me to my second concern. I have as much experience as anybody—certainly anybody in the Chamber today—of introducing reform to the House in the teeth, sometimes, of vociferous opposition, and I have learned that it is best to proceed by experiment. I have no quarrel with motion 7 or the establishment of a Back-Bench committee at whatever point, but, although I know that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome made amendment (a) the touchstone of whether one is for reform, I am concerned about the House carrying it without any experience in a different Parliament of how a Back-Bench committee would work.

I suspect, with deep respect to the motives and content of the observations made in our opening debate on the business motion, that we could see every week of the next Parliament dominated by a wrangle—not necessarily a good-tempered wrangle—about what the business of the House should be. That would not do anything to enhance our standing in the eyes of the public. I cannot reconcile it with my conscience to allow all this to go through with a claim that it is the best thing since sliced bread, particularly—I say this with the greatest possible deference and respect to all hon. Members who have taken part in these debates—when so many of the voices that are heard are those of Members who do not intend to be here in the next Parliament and will not have to pick up the pieces.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I am listening to the right hon. Lady with care and respect. She says that this is an untried system that has not been experienced in our Parliament; no, it has not, but it has in many other Parliaments, including the Scottish Parliament, where it works very well. Why on earth are we incapable of adapting to a new system and making it work?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that perhaps he was not listening with sufficient care to what I said. I did not say that this is a system that the House cannot make work, but that it is a system into which we are intending to proceed without any kind of experiment or trial to see how we make it work for the best. If I may say so, I think that I probably have as much experience as the hon. Gentleman of studying the experiences of other Parliaments and hearing observations from them. I gently say to him, as regards reforms that it is proclaimed that other Parliaments have made, that their parliamentarians and politicians will speak fervently of them in public, but not always quite so fervently in private conversation. [Interruption.] No, I am not talking about Governments. I am fully conscious of the likely criticism that my experience has been Front-Bench experience and that I speak as a former Leader of the House. I am not, by the way—before anybody alleges it—speaking on behalf of the Whips Office. I have not consulted anybody about this. I simply have great regard—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

rose—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I am going to finish now.

I have great regard for this House, and I do not wish it to bring itself into any kind of disrepute. If we begin with a Back-Bench business committee, and if it works as brilliantly as everybody in the Chamber tells me that it will, that will be absolutely fine, and we can proceed unhindered in the next Parliament with a House committee. However, I feel that this may not be the time to move at quite the speed that so many Members here wish us to do.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Let me say, I hope for the last time today, that I deplore the decision made by the Leader of the House to cherry-pick the Procedure Committee’s report. She has let the House down by denying it the opportunity to make its own decisions on some of the recommendations in that report.

I have no difficulty with the motion to make the position that I currently hold an elected one. That is a good idea, which could lead to the office of Chairman of the Procedure Committee having a greater authority, with the Chairman knowing that he is there at the will of the House. Moreover, I hope that any future Leader of the House faced with a unanimous decision of the Procedure Committee would then ensure that there was a debate on all its recommendations.

The arguments on most of the motions have been well aired, so I should like to focus on motion 8—a proposal that is before us for the first time. Soon after your election, Mr. Speaker, you announced in a statement to the House that you were convinced that in a modern democracy that puts Parliament first, the choice of the three Deputy Speakers should be determined not by consultation but by the process of election. The Procedure Committee unanimously agrees with you in that view.

Following the House’s approval of our interim report on the principles to be followed in electing our Deputy Speakers, we have devised a detailed procedure for such elections, which I hope finds favour in all parts of the House. It is based on the existing convention that the four occupants of the Chair should be drawn equally from the Government and Opposition sides of the House, regardless of the exact party proportions in the House, and that there should be at least one man and at least one woman on the team.

The Procedure Committee does not see a case at present for an additional Deputy Speaker, a suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and his parliamentary colleagues, but we did think that there was an argument to say that this should be reviewed in the next Parliament, along with any changes that may have occurred to the role of the Deputy Speakers.

In our view, the rules for electing the Deputy Speakers should reflect those for electing the Speaker. We believe that there should be a secret ballot, that candidates should be nominated by a minimum number of sponsors and that the names of those sponsors should be published. One point that I wish to highlight is that we did feel that there should be no speeches or hustings on the Floor of the House from Deputy Speaker candidates. That would be inappropriate, as the Deputy Speakers are there to support the Speaker in the Chair, and not to pursue their own agenda.

The Procedure Committee did however feel that it would be helpful to Members if candidates for the position of Deputy Speaker were allowed to submit a brief statement, along with their nomination forms, which should be made available to all Members in advance of the ballot. We concluded that the ballot could take place away from the Chamber and be conducted under the single transferable vote system, with the result being announced in the House by the Speaker and entered in the Journal. The newly elected Deputy Speakers could then take up their duties the following day.

It was our unanimous view that the Deputy Speakers should be elected at the start of a Parliament for the duration of that Parliament. Our report sets out a procedure for by-elections when a vacancy occurs due to the resignation of one of the Deputy Speakers or the promotion of one of them to the office of Speaker. However, in our view, the terms of office of the Deputy Speakers should run independently of that of the Speaker, and a change in the Speaker should not, in itself, necessitate a change in Deputy Speakers. We took the view that any imbalance in party or gender representation on the panel should be rectified at the next general election.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

When a Deputy Speaker, after serving for one Parliament, wishes to stand again, how will they be elected?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

It is our recommendation that the Deputy Speakers should be elected afresh at the beginning of every Parliament. If the House therefore has an opportunity to accept or reject someone who has served in a previous Parliament as a Deputy Speaker, there would be no need to impose term limits on the holders of that office.

I hope that the House accepts what the Procedure Committee feels are sensible recommendations, so that the Deputy Speaker elections later this year can be as successful as the process applied in your election, Mr. Speaker, in 2009.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Following the main debate on House of Commons reform 10 days ago, which was widely regarded as a very good debate, the main purpose of today’s debate is simply to pave the way for the votes that will shortly follow. For that reason, I shall keep my remarks brief, but I do wish to emphasise strongly how critical it is that the House, on a cross-party basis and preferably with a substantial majority, endorses the two main recommendations of the Reform of the House of Commons Committee, which was, as everyone knows, chaired so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright).

In politics it is almost never the case that something is “now or never”, but it is certainly true that we have at this time a unique conjunction of events in favour of these reforms that is unlikely to return for a long time. No one can doubt the damage that has been done to the House’s reputation by the expenses scandal. The opportunity that has now opened up to retrieve our standing, by making Parliament a more democratic, responsive and effective institution, is a priceless opportunity which we should grasp eagerly and enthusiastically. Indeed, I have often thought that, terrible though the expenses fiasco was, it was less of an indictment of this place than a reflection of the insidious and systematic erosion, over recent decades, of Parliament’s fundamental rationale, which is to hold the Executive effectively to account. Especially over the past three decades, there has been a steady and growing centralisation of power in the hands of the Executive in general and of No. 10 in particular, and that relationship badly needs rebalancing. Today is an historic opportunity to begin to do that.

The two main proposals before us—giving the House ownership of its Select Committees via the process of election, and reclaiming for the House control of its own business—are certainly not revolutionary. Actually, they are quite modest. However, they are also extremely important. Unquestionably, the Select Committees are the most effective means by which the House holds Ministers to account, and it is crucial that membership should be determined by the House and not by those who might have an interest in making that scrutiny rather more amenable to the powers that be, which defeats the object of the exercise.

For the House to regain control of its own business is a sine qua non of any effective, functioning Chamber. In a previous debate, hon. Members objected that the Government might be prevented from having time to get their business through and thus their accountability to the electorate would be undermined, but the reform Committee’s proposals make it clear that that is not the case, that the Government would still be guaranteed the time to get their own business through, and that the object of the reform is that Members of the House should have the right and the opportunity to determine the agenda for the rest of the time in respect of non-Government business.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

There are so many others wishing to speak. I would gladly give way normally, but there simply is not time.

There are, however, two caveats reflected in two amendments before the House that I hope will be strongly supported. One is that a Back-Bench business committee dealing with non-ministerial business be secured before the election to be ready in time for the next Parliament. That must be right if the current momentum is not to be irretrievably lost. The second caveat is that a House business committee be set up in the next Parliament so that the Back-Bench business committee can negotiate and agree with party managers on the weekly business motion. That would give the House a say in the business, while ensuring that the Government had sufficient time for their own business. I believe that both those aims are essential, and I hope that they will be passed with large majorities.

Sadly, however—this is the one point of contention, and it has already been mentioned—I think that amendment (b), in which it is proposed that a Back-Bench business committee be established now, but with only half a day a week for Back-Bench business, should be rejected, because that is even less time than we have now. What we are debating and voting on today is not the end of parliamentary reform.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

If the right hon. Gentleman does the arithmetic, he will find that it is not less than today. I said that it was based on what happens at the moment.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The manner in which the amendment is drafted leads one to suspect that it would result in less time. However, the House will shortly take a view on whether that is the case. We are not prepared to accept anything less than the current position.

Several other important issues will have to be pursued in the future, and I shall mention three briefly: the improved scheduling of business to ensure more effective scrutiny of legislation on Report—the current situation is a scandal—and in Lords amendments debates; the right of the Liaison Committee to select a given quota of Select Committee reports each year for debate and a vote—I stress vote—on the Floor of the House; and greater access for the electorate to the proceedings of this place through the establishment of a public petitions committee to ensure that petitions are sent to the appropriate Select Committee for consideration, or to the relevant Minister for action or to the proposed business committee for consideration on the Floor of the House.

However, those issues are for the future. The two crucial proposals from the reform Committee that we are debating today—on elected Select Committees and on a Back-Bench and House business committee—together with the two key amendments, are essential. I cannot stress too strongly that we should all use this opportunity to pass them with acclamation.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I shall be very brief. I gladly assented to all the resolutions that the House passed last week without Division, and I shall vote for all the substantive motions this afternoon. Once again, I congratulate the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) and his Committee on their hard work on behalf of us all.

The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) was right to issue a warning and to tell those of us leaving the House just to be careful. I accept that gentle stricture in the spirit in which it was given, because I have a great regard for her. She was, in my opinion, one of the best Leaders of the House that we have had in my time here.

I am very concerned, however, about the need to change the name. If you look in the “Oxford English Dictionary”, as I am sure you regularly do, Mr. Speaker, you will see that one of the definitions of “chairman” is a person who takes the chair at a meeting. The hon. Member for Cannock Chase said in the report that the title “Chairman of Ways and Means” should be maintained. There is a degree of inconsistency in saying that we will have a Chairman of Ways and Means, regardless of the sex or gender of that person, but not a Chairman of any other Committee. It is a time-honoured custom to refer to “Madam Chairman”. Indeed, some of the women whom I have most respected, in this House and outside, have looked on such suggestions as rather silly cosmetics. The former Member, the late, lamented Gwyneth Dunwoody would have given short shrift to the proposal, as would the former Speaker, Baroness Boothroyd, who has strong views on matters of this nature, and has voiced them on an number of occasions—not in the context of the Wright report, but elsewhere.

There really is no need to make the proposed change. I submit to the House that it is rather silly and demeaning to bother with it when we are moving on other matters that are so grave and important. After all, the Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), has never thought to change her name, even though she has had every opportunity to do so. She could call herself “Har” or “Harperson”, or even think up a name, such as—[Interruption]—absolutely, such as “Dromey”. However, she has not chosen to do that. Frankly, the proposed change is not necessary. As one who both passionately wants sensible reform and loves the traditions of this place, I think that there is just no need for it.

I am conscious that many hon. Members wish to get in briefly, so all I would say to the House is this. Let us applaud the Wright Committee and approve of the reforms that are substantive, voting for those amendments that we think will best give them effect, but do not let us depart from the nomenclature that has defined this House through the years. Also, do not let us debase and demean the English language by moving in the direction of calling our Members furniture. I urge colleagues to vote against resolution 3, but to vote in favour of all the others.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I will be very brief. If we looked at constitutional definitions of the purpose of being an MP, we would probably find three things: first, to hold the Government to account—that is what we are focusing on in these discussions—secondly, to deliberate on legislation, and thirdly, to represent, in the Burkean sense, a constituency. My grandfather, who was a Member of this House in the 1930s, would probably have recognised that role pretty well, but I would ask those Members present to say, in all honesty, whether that is a recognisable description of the activities of most MPs now.

Most MPs, particularly those occupying marginal seats, spend most of their time fulfilling the function of a super-councillor, representing and pursuing individual concerns as vigorously as possible, knowing perfectly well the premium that is attached to that function by their voters. If we are honest, however, the matters that we are discussing now are not the matters that attract a premium from our voters. I have not been approached by my constituents urging me to support these reforms. I will do so, because I think that that they are the best things that we can do, but we would be under an illusion if we thought that they offered a solution to our difficulties in engaging with the public.

The first task that we must undertake—I recognise that the Committee did not have the opportunity or the brief to do this—is properly to debate with our citizens what the function of an MP actually is in the modern world. It has changed utterly since my grandfather was here—in fact, probably in the past 40 years, which is rather less time than that. It has changed utterly, and without any proper engagement with the public as to what they want from MPs, what balance they think should be struck between our functions and what resources should be allocated to those tasks.

The proposals before us today do not attempt to address that issue. They will alter, in a beneficial way, the way in which we make decisions about the processes of the House and about how we allocate its time, but they do not address the issue of resources. They do not deal with the time resources of MPs, or with the resources that MPs need to conduct high-quality work in their Select Committees. There was an oblique reference earlier to the attendance problem in relation to MPs serving on Select Committees and other Committees of the House. I have to say that that observation was profoundly accurate. As a pretty assiduous attender myself, I have sat on Committees that have been sparsely attended all too often. I am leaving the House at the next election, but I would ask Members of the new Parliament to conduct a basic review of their own function. They must ask what we are for, and how we resource the work that we do.

These reforms are of some value. They might alter the balance between the Executive and the ordinary Member. I say “might” because patronage is an insidious process, and I strongly suspect that, however one constructs the mechanism of choice, those with an interest in producing an outcome that favours the Executive or the Front Bench will find ways of doing so. I would be surprised if that were not true, and I certainly recognise from the operations of my own party that the networking processes and regional groupings that we form have a significant influence on Members’ voting patterns for posts in the party. I would be very surprised if that were not replicated in these elections, too.

The measures would alter the elites who make judgments, but elites will remain. There will be a large number of new Members of the House after the coming election, and they will feel lost in this space. I suspect that they will find themselves with very little leverage to achieve the outcomes that they want in the Select Committee processes. It might be the case that they would have done better under the old, discredited models—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.
The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

My hon. Friend says no loudly behind me, and I can see why she might say that. It is certainly true, however, that a new Member, feeling lost and without any networks in place, could well find themselves with very little say in which Select Committee they got on to, if any, and without the votes to achieve the outcomes that they wanted. So let us not over-egg what we are doing today. I will vote for the reforms because I think that they will be beneficial, but, honestly, they are only a small part—and, in terms of our engagement with the public at large, a pretty minimal part—of what needs to be done.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I rise to speak to amendment (c) to the motion on the Back-Bench business committee and to put some questions to the shadow Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), about his amendment (b). The right hon. Gentleman was a worthy member of the Wright Committee—initially, until he found his new home on the Conservative Front Bench. We all congratulated him on that at the time. Two weeks ago, I thought he played a statesmanlike role in our proceedings, but I would be grateful if he could answer a number of questions about his amendment in order to keep that title untainted, if I can put it that way.

There are several problems with the right hon. Gentleman’s amendment. First, this House elected the Wright Committee to represent its views, consider the relevant matters and bring recommendations. It is not binding; no Select Committee report is binding. It gives rise to pause for thought when an elected Committee comes along with very strong recommendations, yet an amendment is tabled in the name of one party to ride roughshod over those recommendations.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman must recognise that amendment (c), with which his amendment (b) is competing, endorses and flexibly implements the recommendations of the Wright Committee. His amendment does not do that. Thirdly, his amendment says that this can happen only

“in the light of further consideration by the Procedure Committee”.

As already noted—I intend no slight on the people serving on that Committee who I am sure do a very good job and have done so on the report about Deputy Speakers—the Procedure Committee is not an elected Committee; it is still appointed by the Whips. The right hon. Gentleman is asking for the Back-Bench business committee’s terms of reference and relevant Standing Order to be determined by a Committee that is presently appointed by the Whips. Furthermore, how does he envisage that being done in the two weeks we have before Parliament is dissolved? His amendment says that it will be established

“in time for the beginning of the next Parliament”—

that is good—

“in the light of further consideration by the Procedure Committee”.

I would be grateful if he would address that concern about the timing.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Someone will have to change the Standing Orders. Someone will have to draft the provision—I do not mind who does it, but I suggested that the Procedure Committee was the best body to do so and report back before the end of this Parliament so that we can get things up and running at the beginning of the next one.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I trust the right hon. Gentleman would have no objection to an elected Committee of the House doing that. I am glad that he indicates assent from a sedentary position. The Wright Committee may be well placed to do that work, as I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it has given considerable thought to the changes to the Standing Orders that will be required, so it will not be making a standing start.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) talked about wrangling over this extremely important House business committee. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, just as we are having a free vote on implementing the proposals before us, the result of any such wrangling must also be subject to a free vote? Otherwise, the Executive will prevail on all occasions when the House business committee takes its own view in negotiations with the official Committee.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

The hon. Gentleman asks an important question about the House business committee, which is covered by amendment (a) to motion 7 and various recommendations in the report. I was not dealing with that, but the hon. Gentleman makes some important points, which the Wright Committee debated at length, about how one ensures a consensual approach to agreeing the agenda; otherwise, regardless of what he says about free votes, the Government of the day will be able to get their way, which would wreck the whole process. I urge him to read what the report has to say about the need to have the House business committee working consensually when it is set up. As long as everyone has time to do their stuff, these should not be matters of dispute. Proper consideration on Report and of Lords amendments should be agreed, and the Government can then use their majority to get their business through. Amendment (a) provides guarantees that the Government have time to do that.

I ask the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire to address what I view as the fundamental problem with his amendment (a) to the motion on the Back-Bench business committee. Amendment (c) specifies support for recommendation 18 of the Wright Committee report—probably the most important of the subsidiary recommendations, as it talks about a Back-Bench business committee being elected. The right hon. Gentleman’s amendment leaves out any recognition of that recommendation and makes no reference to a Back-Bench business committee being elected. As the shadow Leader of the House knows, unless we specify in the Standing Order, and unless whatever Committee is involved has the time, the default will be that it would not be elected, which would wreck the whole proposal. If a Back-Bench business committee is not elected by the House, I cannot see why he should accept that any other Committee should be.

As long as the concerns about time are met, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, and the Leader of the House, will accept that the amendment concerned will do the trick. His amendment refers to “15 days allotted”—I presume he means currently allotted—to set-piece debates. That is less than half a day a week. The Wright Committee, however, was clear that if we tot up those 15 days, and the 12 days in the last Session—this might be a variable feast—subsequently allotted for general debates, which he says will subsequently come our way, plus the topical time, which should be for the House, plus other House business that must be moved in Government time, it amounts to a day a week. Amendment (c) refers to non-ministerial business. If the system is introduced, it cannot be right for crucial House business still to be moved in Government time, because we will still have problems when we debate setting up important Select Committees and changing Standing Order. Although it could be argued that the proposal is in the spirit of the Wright Committee, amendment (b) is flawed. The Leader of the House’s support should have given the shadow Leader of the House pause for thought, since she is not supporting other elements of the Wright Committee.

The right hon. Member for Derby, South was concerned that we might be moving too fast towards a House business committee. However, the terms of amendment (a) are clear: only after the establishment of a Back-Bench business committee, which we think will be at the beginning of the next Parliament if amendment (c) is passed, will the House move towards the establishment of a House business committee. That gives plenty of time to see how the Back-Bench business committee is working and how Government and Opposition Whips—business managers, we should say—should work with that Back-Bench business committee to reach agreement to solve the serious problems of Report stage.

I did not understand how the Leader of the House could say that she opposed amendment (d) because it should be left “to the next Parliament”. Amendment (d) would add the words

“and also looks forward to the following recommendations of the Committee being given further consideration in the next Parliament”.

How can she oppose a motion in its own terms, by its own terms? It does not make sense. I hope that she will reconsider that, as she has reconsidered her position on a number of such matters, which we have welcomed.

By supporting amendment (c) to motion 7, and amendment (a), we have an opportunity to show the electorate that we recognise that now is the time to make such decisions. We will never again have the coincidence of all the forces that have led us to recognise that reform is necessary. If we are ever to crack the problem of the House having control of its agenda, and of making sure that it can debate and vote on all the legislation that the Government put before it, we must support amendments (c) and (a) to motion 7.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I will be extremely brief, as I spoke at some length last Monday. Let me say to my friend—he is my friend—and parliamentary neighbour the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) that I have enjoyed over the years hearing him denounce furniturism. But I also have to tell him that if we can safely and sensibly move from a term that is intrinsically gender-laden to one that is gender-neutral, we should do it. We should do it not because of political correctness but as a matter of common sense and common courtesy. In 2010, I think we can take that step in some kind of safety.

Everyone, from the Prime Minister downwards and sideways, has said that strengthening Parliament is the mission before us. We all make the speeches, but this is the moment we get a chance to do it. It is appropriate that most of us are reflecting today on the life of Michael Foot. I do not claim for a second that Michael would be in the Lobby with me today. If I did, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) would tell me I was wrong. I know, however, that we could not reflect on Michael Foot in a better way than by showing determination to strengthen the institution that he loved.

Plenty of accolades have been given out during this debate. Let me now give my own accolade to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher), who, incidentally, has just returned from the surgeon’s knife. Many years ago he set up an organisation called Parliament First, and he has toiled year in year out to enable us to reach the point that we have reached today. He has just told me that this represents the culmination of his parliamentary life. He deserves huge credit for what he has done.

Our proposals are not ad hoc, isolated proposals; they have a theme. The theme is that the time has come for the House to reclaim responsibility for itself and its own business. That is what unifies our proposals on Select Committees. As we now say endlessly, it cannot be right for the Executive or the party managers to control the membership of Select Committees, either directly or indirectly. The only way to alter that system, as we discovered in our deliberations, is to move to a system of election.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will not, because I am going to end my speech very soon.

We have reached a point at which it can no longer be acceptable for the Executive to control business that should properly belong to the House. That is the unifying theme of our proposals. However, I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South that with control comes responsibility. It is easy to set up new structures, which I hope is what we will do today, but someone must make them work, and that means making them work in a responsible fashion. In a way it is easy when we can blame the Government for everything, but from now on we shall have to attend to ourselves and take responsibility for ourselves. If we do not do that, this is not going to work; it will be sunk. We should not imagine that this is the moment at which we have done it, because we have not. We are at the beginning of a process which I hope will change the nature of this institution, but it will do that only if the people who come after us make sure that it does.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I approve of the idea of electing the Chairs of Select Committees, but how can we assert responsibility, representative government and accountability if we are so craven that we need a secret ballot to do so? That is no reflection on the product of the only secret ballot that we have had—Mr. Speaker, who is doing an excellent job—but surely we ought to be able to display honestly to our constituents which Members we wanted to chair these important Committees, rather than being too craven to put it on the record.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I have never considered the argument for a secret ballot to be a craven argument; I have always considered it a rather traditional democratic argument.

The real contention now surrounds the amendments on the Back-Bench business committee. The one thing that has been agreed by everyone during this process—even those who were not persuaded by what we said about the House business committee—is that non-ministerial business should be controlled by a Back-Bench business committee. Given the universal agreement on that, why do we not nail it down in the most decisive form possible by saying that we want to do now what needs to be done to ensure that the Committee is in place at the beginning of the next Parliament?

I have great regard for the shadow Leader of the House, as he knows, but the problem with his amendment is that it looks like crumbs from the Executive table. All that our amendment is proposing is that we do what is recommended in our report, which is to take, for example, all that crucial, procedural stuff not covered by the right hon. Gentleman’s amendment but which enables us to get to the House issues that affect how it is run, and put it into a category of non-ministerial business. We want to give that to a Back-Bench business committee. We want a Standing Order to nail that down and we want to do it in this Parliament. That is the difference between the two amendments.

We have taken some steps in this Parliament that unfortunately have had the effect of weakening the institution. We all now know that the task is to strengthen it. These measures by themselves will not do that; all they do is provide a set of tools that people in the next Parliament, our successors, can use, if they want to, to make this place a more vital institution. That is our job today; it is their job tomorrow.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I shall speak briefly in support of the two amendments tabled in my name and that of many other right hon. and hon. Members. I am grateful for the support indicated by the Wright Committee in its guide to amendments and votes. I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, for agreeing that it is logical that the Committee should be included within the chairmanships that will be subject to a ballot and proper election. The argument against has been based on the fact that the Committee is sui generis and in that respect different from other departmental Select Committees. So it is, but what about the Public Accounts Committee? If we are to elect the chairman of the PAC, why not the Chairman of the Procedure Committee? I hope people will support the amendment.

Amendment (o) is born out of my experience when I was first elected to the House in 1983, when we waited about six months to set up the Select Committees and it was extremely frustrating for all. I looked with care at the Leader of the House’s wording for the proposed change to Standing Orders and it seemed to me that there was a lacuna. She has said that if within one week of the Queen’s Speech the Committee is set up as a result of an agreement between the leaders of the parties to nominate the Chairs, such and such will happen. But what if it is not done within one week? We will then be wholly beholden to the Executive to decide when they will bring forward proposals.

The amendment would give one more week’s grace—until two weeks after the Queen’s Speech. If by that time the usual channels have not come forward with an agreed process, it would be open to any Member of the House to move a motion to decide the issue. It would be the duty of the Speaker to accept the motion and to put it down for debate on the following day. That would ensure that we got the Select Committees set up early in a new Parliament, and we would not find ourselves being frustrated Back Benchers, wondering when the Executive would be kind and generous enough to give us the chance to set up these important Select Committees.

The amendment fills an important lacuna and I am grateful to those Members who have already indicated that they will support it if there is a Division.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

rose

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

There are fewer than seven minutes remaining, so if more than one Member is to contribute, we shall need contributions to be very brief.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

I made my maiden speech in this House on the subject of parliamentary reform and the overbearing power of the Whips. I was told by my Whip a day later that my career was over, and he was, of course, entirely right.

I want to touch briefly upon stuff from the Procedure Committee. Let us be honest, Mr. Speaker: you are the only holder of the speakership who has been elected by secret ballot, so it is not true to suggest that the Speaker of this House is not elected by secret ballot. What there is an open ballot on, however, is the mechanism to deselect the Speaker. That can be done by a single Member calling, “Object”, as one of the first items of business when the new Parliament reassembles. If Members wish to deselect the Speaker, they should have the courage to go through that Division Lobby and put their name on the record. That is the kernel of that debate, and I am glad we will not be wasting any more time on it.

Members who support parliamentary reform should be deeply suspicious of any collusion, even in a free vote, between those on the two Front Benches, and we have such collusion today in that the Leader of the House, for whom I have great respect, will be supporting amendment (b) to motion 7, which was tabled by the shadow Leader of the House, for whom I also have great respect. Therefore, the Leader of the House will be supporting an Opposition amendment to her own motion, which will ensure that the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright), who is Chair of the Reform of the House of Commons Committee, will fall. As has been amply explained by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) and my hon. Friend who chairs the Committee—of which I am proud to be a member—we will have a flimsier Back-Bench committee as a result.

I do not believe that my constituents, or those of any other Member, are focused on the fine detail of this debate, but I think they know that this of all Parliaments has to demonstrate a capacity to reform. It has to demonstrate a capacity to get the reform agenda back on track—an agenda that, to be frank, stalled when this House tragically lost the services of Robin Cook. That is important not just for the reputation of this House and our politics, but for our ability to legislate effectively, because we all know that good laws require good scrutiny, and good scrutiny needs a House of Commons that is amply able to hold the Executive to account and to pass legislation of which we can be proud, rather than, as at the moment, legislation we have to revisit, sometimes annually.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

First, may I express regret that we have not been given an opportunity to vote on all the recommendations of the Wright Committee today? May I highlight an amendment that is in my name and that of a number of other Members, which would enable the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee to be voted on by secret ballot while giving the Prime Minister a veto at the nomination stage? That modest reform would have improved the credibility of the ISC’s scrutiny and work, and public confidence in it. That is particularly apposite in view of the Committee’s apparent failure to be able to scrutinise adequately the Binyam Mohamed case.

I wish to make two other extremely brief points. After some considerable thought I am going to support amendment (b) to motion 7. I realise that that will disappoint some in the House—[Interruption.] I can tell that this is so from a few nodding heads. I still feel that we should proceed cautiously on the creation of the business committee. I am a supporter of it—I have supported it for a long time and have said so—but I take the view that, as a number of others have said this afternoon, it is an experiment. I do not think it an experiment that we should not even try—that appeared to be the view of the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett). If the experiment works, as I suspect it will, we will then be able to take the reform further.

I shall end my contribution by saying that by far the most important reform looks as if it will go through, and I very much hope it will. I am talking about the proposal for the election of Chairmen of Select Committees by secret ballot. That will be by far the most important single change to the scrutiny of the Executive by this place to have occurred since the St. John-Stevas reforms in 1979. Over time, the proposal has the capacity to transform the effectiveness of this place. I have supported and campaigned for this measure for more than a decade, so I am pleased that the Wright Committee has proposed it. The proposal will enable us, finally, to scrutinise the Executive, with spokesmen for this place able to take on the Executive in the media outside and to act as spokesmen for us here in Parliament.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Do I have one minute left in which to speak, Mr. Speaker? I shall try to squeeze into it the many things I want to say about these so-called “reforms”. I spoke in last week’s debate in order to say that I do not think they are reforms, and that we are missing a massive opportunity to make some serious reforms in this House. The consensus that has emerged, that the proposals before the House are reforms, is a dangerous one. The Front-Bench teams of both sides and the minority parties—

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Order. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not get so much as a minute in which to speak, but we have reached the deadline.

Two hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the Business of the House motion, the Speaker put the Question (Order, this day).

Division 97

4 March 2010

The House divided:

Ayes: 206
Noes: 90

Question accordingly agreed to.

View Details

Resolved,

(1) That this House approves recommendation 3 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008-09, HC 1117; and

(2) That accordingly, in each place where they occur in any Standing Order related to Public Business, Order or Resolution of the House, except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4) below:

(a) for “chairman” there shall be substituted “chair”;

(b) for “chairmen” there shall be substituted “chairs”; and

(c) for “Chairmen’s Panel” there shall be substituted “Panel of Chairs”;

(3) That the following changes to Standing Orders be made:

(a) In Standing Order No. 9 (Sittings of the House)—

(i) in line 25, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”,

(ii) in line 32, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”, and

(iii) in line 37, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”;

(b) In Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings), in line 29, leave out “chairman” and insert

“occupant of the chair”; and

(c) In Standing Order No. 35 (Dilatory motion in abuse of the rules of the House), line 10, leave out “chairman” and insert “occupant of the chair”;

(4) That this order shall not apply to the titles of Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Chairman

or Chairmen or the Lord Chairman of Committees where they occur in any Standing Order, Order or Resolution of the House.

The Speaker then put the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Order, this day).

ELECTION OF COMMITTEE CHAIRS

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the following Standing Order be made, with effect from the beginning of the next Parliament—

(1) The chairs of the following select committees shall be elected by the House in accordance with paragraphs (2) to (13) below:

(a) select committees appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (select committees related to government departments);

(b) the Environmental Audit Committee;

(c) the Select Committee on Public Administration; and

(d) the Committee of Public Accounts.

(2) The day following his election at the start of a new Parliament, the Speaker shall communicate to the leaders of each party represented in the House the proportion of chairs of select committees to be elected under this Order falling to each such party which would reflect the composition of the House.

(3) If, within a week of the Queen’s speech, a motion in the name of the leaders of all the parties entitled to one or more chairs of select committees subject to election under this Order specifying to which party each such chair is allocated is moved, the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than one hour after their commencement, proceedings on the motion shall be exempted business and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

(4) If a motion to which paragraph (3) above applies also makes changes to Standing Order No. 152 (Select committees related to government departments) which are consequential on changes to the machinery of government, then the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than one and a half hours after their commencement; proceedings on the motion shall be exempted business; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

(5) If the House has agreed a motion allocating chairs to parties the election of the chairs shall take place in accordance with the remaining provisions of this order.

(6) The ballots shall take place fourteen days after the approval of the motion allocating chairs to parties.

(7) (a) Nominations of candidates shall be in writing and shall be received by the Clerk of the House by 5.00 pm on the day before the ballot.

(b) Each nomination shall consist of a signed statement made by the candidate declaring his willingness to stand for election, accompanied by the signatures of fifteen Members elected to the House as members of the same party as the candidate or ten per cent. of the Members elected to the House as members of that party, whichever is the lower.

(c) Statements may be accompanied by signatures of up to five Members elected to the House as members of any party other than that to which the candidate belongs, or members of no party.

(d) No Member may sign the statement of more than one candidate for chair of the same select committee.

(e) No Member may be a candidate for the chair of a select committee which has not been allocated to his party under paragraph (3) of this order or otherwise, or for which he is ineligible under Standing Order No. 122A (Term limits for chairmen of select committees).

(f) No Member may be a candidate for more than one chair elected under this order.

(g) As soon as practicable following the close of nominations, lists of the candidates and their accompanying signatories shall be published.

(8) Election of chairs of select committees under this order shall be by secret ballot.

(9) Preparatory arrangements for the ballots shall be made under the supervision of the Clerk of the House.

(10) (a) If there is only one candidate for the chair of a select committee, that candidate shall be declared elected without a ballot.

(b) The ballot shall take place in a place appointed by the Speaker.

(c) Each Member intending to vote shall be provided with a ballot paper for each select committee bearing the names of the candidates listed in alphabetical order.

(d) Members will vote by ranking as many candidates as they wish in order of preference, marking 1 by the name of their first preference, 2 by the name of their second preference, and so on. Any candidate who receives more than half the first preferences shall be elected. If no candidate is so elected, the candidate or candidates with the lowest number of first preferences shall be eliminated and his votes distributed among the remaining candidates according to the preferences on them. If no candidate has more than half the votes, the process of elimination and distribution is repeated, until one candidate has more than half the votes.

(e) The ballot shall be open between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm and counting shall take place under arrangements made by the Clerk of the House.

(11) The Speaker shall have power to give directions on any matter of doubt arising from the conduct of a ballot or from an individual ballot paper and to vary the timings given in paragraphs 5 to 10 of this order.

(12) As soon as practicable after the closing of the ballot the results shall be published under the direction of the Speaker.

(13) A chair elected under this order is a member of the committee of which he is elected chair.—(Ms Harman.)

Amendment proposed to motion 4: (p), after paragraph (1)(d), insert—

‘( ) the Select Committee on Procedure.’.—(Mr. Chope.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

A Division was called.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

Division off.

Question agreed to.

The edit just sent has not been saved. The following error was returned:
This content has already been edited and is awaiting review.

As I have announced to the House, the Division is off. I think that there was some confusion, although there should not really have been any. It was very clear in my mind, and I hope in some other people’s minds, that it was the first amendment in the list that was being moved. Nevertheless, there was a level of confusion, but it does not matter, as it has been overcome and the Noes withdrew.

I would like to ask the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) to move amendment (o) formally.

Amendment proposed to motion 4: (o), after paragraph (4) insert—

‘( ) If, on the expiry of two weeks after the Queen’s Speech, no motion in the name of the leaders of all the parties entitled to one or more chairs of select committees subject to election under this Order specifying to which party each said chair is allocated has been tabled, on the following sitting day the Speaker shall give precedence to a motion tabled thereafter by any hon. Member to allocate chairs under this Order and the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 4 shall apply to proceedings on such a motion.’.—(Mr. Chope.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 98

4 March 2010

The House divided:

Ayes: 279
Noes: 31

Question accordingly agreed to.

View Details

Amendment made to motion 4: (q), after paragraph (7)(e) insert—

‘( ) No member may be a candidate for the chair of the Committee of Public Accounts unless his party is that of the official Opposition.’.—(Mr. Leigh.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the following Standing Order be made, with effect from the beginning of the next Parliament—

(1) The chairs of the following select committees shall be elected by the House in accordance with paragraphs (2) to (14) below:

(a) select committees appointed under Standing Order No. 152 (select committees related to government departments);

(b) the Environmental Audit Committee;

(c) the Select Committee on Public Administration; and

(d) the Committee of Public Accounts.

( ) the Select Committee on Procedure.

(2) The day following his election at the start of a new Parliament, the Speaker shall communicate

to the leaders of each party represented in the House the proportion of chairs of select committees to be elected under this Order falling to each such party which would reflect the composition of the House.

(3) If, within a week of the Queen’s speech, a motion in the name of the leaders of all the parties entitled to one or more chairs of select committees subject to election under this Order specifying to which party each such chair is allocated is moved, the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than one hour after their commencement, proceedings on the motion shall be exempted business and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

(4) If a motion to which paragraph (3) above applies also makes changes to Standing Order No. 152 (Select committees related to government departments) which are consequential on changes to the machinery of government, then the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than one and a half hours after their commencement; proceedings on the motion shall be exempted business; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

( ) If, on the expiry of two weeks after the Queen’s Speech, no motion in the name of the leaders of all the parties entitled to one or more chairs of select committees subject to election under this Order specifying to which party each said chair is allocated has been tabled, on the following sitting day the Speaker shall give precedence to a motion tabled thereafter by any hon. Member to allocate chairs under this Order and the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 4 shall apply to proceedings on such a motion.

(5) If the House has agreed a motion allocating chairs to parties the election of the chairs shall take place in accordance with the remaining provisions of this order.

(6) The ballots shall take place fourteen days after the approval of the motion allocating chairs to parties.

(7) (a) Nominations of candidates shall be in writing and shall be received by the Clerk of the House by 5.00 pm on the day before the ballot.

(b) Each nomination shall consist of a signed statement made by the candidate declaring his willingness to stand for election, accompanied by the signatures of fifteen Members elected to the House as members of the same party as the candidate or ten per cent. of the Members elected to the House as members of that party, whichever is the lower.

(c) Statements may be accompanied by signatures of up to five Members elected to the House as members of any party other than that to which the candidate belongs, or members of no party.

(d) No Member may sign the statement of more than one candidate for chair of the same select committee.

(e) No Member may be a candidate for the chair of a select committee which has not been allocated to his party under paragraph (3) of this order or otherwise, or for which he is ineligible under Standing Order No. 122A (Term limits for chairmen of select committees).

( ) No member may be a candidate for the chair of the Committee of Public Accounts unless his party is that of the official Opposition.

(f) No Member may be a candidate for more than one chair elected under this order.

(g) As soon as practicable following the close of nominations, lists of the candidates and their accompanying signatories shall be published.

(8) Election of chairs of select committees under this order shall be by secret ballot.

(9) Preparatory arrangements for the ballots shall be made under the supervision of the Clerk of the House.

(10) (a) If there is only one candidate for the chair of a select committee, that candidate shall be declared elected without a ballot.

(b) The ballot shall take place in a place appointed by the Speaker.

(c) Each Member intending to vote shall be provided with a ballot paper for each select committee bearing the names of the candidates listed in alphabetical order.

(d) Members will vote by ranking as many candidates as they wish in order of preference, marking 1 by the name of their first preference, 2 by the name of their second preference, and so on. Any candidate who receives more than half the first preferences shall be elected. If no candidate is so elected, the candidate or candidates with the lowest number of first preferences shall be eliminated and his votes distributed among the remaining candidates according to the preferences on them. If no candidate has more than half the votes, the process of elimination and distribution is repeated, until one candidate has more than half the votes.

(e) The ballot shall be open between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm and counting shall take place under arrangements made by the Clerk of the House.

(11) The Speaker shall have power to give directions on any matter of doubt arising from the conduct of a ballot or from an individual ballot paper and to vary the timings given in paragraphs (6) to (11) of this order.

(12) As soon as practicable after the closing of the ballot the results shall be published under the direction of the Speaker.

(13) A chair elected under this order is a member of the committee of which he is elected chair.

RESIGNATION OR REMOVAL OF CHAIRS OF SELECT COMMITTEES

Resolved,

That the following Standing Order be made, with effect from the beginning of the next Parliament—

(1) In the case of a select committee to which the provisions of Standing Order No. (Election of select committee chairs) applies, where

(a) the chair has ceased to be a member of the House, or

(b) the chair has given written notice to the Speaker of a wish to resign from the chair, or

(c) the committee has reported a resolution that it has no confidence in the chair in accordance with the terms of paragraphs (3) and (4) of this order the Speaker shall declare the chair vacant and, as soon as practicable, announce the date of the election for the position of chair of that committee which shall be not fewer than ten sitting days after that announcement.

(2) The election shall be held according to the provisions of paragraphs (2) to (13) of Standing Order No. (Election of select committee chairs), save that nominations shall be submitted by 12 noon on the day before the ballot.

(3) No motion expressing no confidence in its chair may be made in a committee unless notice of the motion has been circulated to the chair and all members of the committee at least ten sitting days in advance of the meeting at which the motion is made.

(4) A resolution by a committee expressing no confidence in its chair shall not have effect for the purposes of paragraph (1) above unless either

(a) it is agreed by the committee without a division or

(b) the majority of the membership of the committee, including at least two members from the largest party represented on the committee and at least one member from another party, vote in favour of the resolution.

(5) A motion expressing no confidence in the chair may not be made in a committee in the six months following the election of a chair by the House or in the year following a vote on such a motion on that chair.—(Ms Harman.)

ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF SELECT COMMITTEES

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That this House takes note of recommendation 6 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008–09, HC 1117, and endorses the principle that parties should elect members of select committees in a secret ballot by whichever transparent and democratic method they choose.—(Ms Harman.)

Amendment made to motion 6: (a), at end add

‘and further notes and endorses recommendation 8 in the First Report from the Liaison Committee of this Session, HC 272, and directs that where the attendance of any member of a select committee in any Session is below 60 per cent. of the Committee’s formal meetings, at the end of that Session the Speaker may invite the Chairman of the Committee of Selection to propose to the House that any such Member should be discharged and that an election to fill that vacancy should be held within two weeks of the beginning of the next Session.’ —(Mr. Alan Williams.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House takes note of recommendation 6 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008–09, HC 1117, and endorses the principle that parties should elect members of select committees in a secret ballot by whichever transparent and democratic method they choose and further notes and endorses recommendation 8 in the First Report from the Liaison Committee of this Session, HC 272, and directs that where the attendance of any member of a select committee in any Session is below 60 per cent. of the Committee’s formal meetings, at the end of that Session the Speaker may invite the Chairman of the Committee of Selection to propose to the House that any such Member should be discharged and that an election to fill that vacancy should be held within two weeks of the beginning of the next Session.

BACKBENCH BUSINESS COMMITTEE

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That this House approves recommendation 17 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008–09, HC 1117, and looks forward to the House being offered the opportunity within 10 sitting weeks of the beginning of the next session of Parliament to establish a backbench business committee and a new category of backbench business, in the light of further consideration by the Procedure Committee.—(Ms Harman.)

Amendment proposed to motion 7: (b), leave out from ‘opportunity’ to end and add

‘in the light of further consideration by the Procedure Committee, to establish in time for the beginning of the next Parliament a Backbench Business Committee and a new category of backbench business, comprising initially the 15 days allotted to set piece debates; and subsequently days allocated for general debates.— (Sir George Young.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division 99

4 March 2010

The House divided:

Ayes: 106
Noes: 221

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Amendments made to motion 7: (c), leave out from ‘opportunity’ to end and add

‘to establish, in time for the start of the next Parliament, a backbench business committee, constituted in accordance with the principles set out in recommendation 18 of the Committee’s Report, to schedule non-ministerial business as described in recommendations 22 (select committees), 23 and 28 (backbench substantive motions), 30 (protected time for backbench business) and 39 (Estimates days) of the Committee’s Report.’.

Amendment (a), at end add

‘and approves the establishment during the course of the next Parliament of a House Business Committee comprising the backbench business committee and representatives of Government and Opposition which, while guaranteeing that the Government has the time and first choice of dates to get its legislative programme through, and to make whatever statements it wishes, would improve scheduling of business to ensure more effective scrutiny of legislation at Report Stage and consideration of Lords Amendments.’.

Amendment (d), at end add

‘and also looks forward to the following recommendations of the Committee being given further consideration in the next Parliament:

(a) 19 and 20 (Ministerial business);

(b) 21 (Opposition business);

(c) 26 (notice and flexibility);

(d) 27 (timetabling);

(e) 32 (sessions and carry-over);

(f) 35 (Ministerial statements);

(g) 36 (general committees);

(h) 37 (public bill committees); and

(i) 40 (Private Members’ bills).’.—(Dr. Tony Wright.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House approves recommendation 17 of the First Report of the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, Session 2008–09, HC 1117, and looks forward to the House being offered the opportunity to establish, in time for the start of the next Parliament, a backbench business committee, constituted in accordance with the principles set out in recommendation 18 of the Committee’s Report, to schedule non-ministerial business as described in recommendations 22 (select committees), 23 and 28 (backbench substantive motions), 30 (protected time for backbench business) and 39 (Estimates days) of the Committee’s Report, and approves the establishment during the course of the next Parliament of a House Business Committee comprising the backbench business committee and representatives of Government and Opposition which, while guaranteeing that the Government has the time and first choice of dates to get its legislative programme through, and to make whatever statements it wishes, would improve scheduling of business to ensure more effective scrutiny of legislation at Report Stage and consideration of Lords Amendments, and also looks forward to the following recommendations of the Committee being given further consideration in the next Parliament:

(a) 19 and 20 (Ministerial business);

(b) 21 (Opposition business);

(c) 26 (notice and flexibility);

(d) 27 (timetabling);

(e) 32 (sessions and carry-over);

(f) 35 (Ministerial statements);

(g) 36 (general committees);

(h) 37 (public bill committees); and

(i) 40 (Private Members’ bills).

election of the Deputy speakers

Resolved,

That the following Standing Order be made, with effect from the beginning of the next Parliament:—

(1) At the commencement of every Parliament, or from time to time, as necessity may arise, the Speaker shall notify the House of the arrangements to be made to elect a Chairman of Ways and Means and two Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means, who shall be known respectively as the First and the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.

(2) The election shall be by secret ballot.

(3) Preparatory arrangements for a ballot shall be made under the supervision of the Clerk of the House.

(4)(a) Nominations of candidates shall be in writing and shall be received by the Clerk of the House between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm on the day before the House is to elect the Deputy Speakers.

(b) Each nomination shall consist of a brief signed statement made by the candidate declaring his willingness to stand for election accompanied by the signatures of not fewer than six nor more than 10 Members. No Member shall sign more than three such statements and if any Member does so, his signature shall no longer be valid.

(c) As soon as practicable following the close of nominations, lists of the candidates and their sponsors and the statements shall be placed in the Members’ lobby and published.

(5)(a) A ballot shall take place between eleven o’clock and twelve o’clock in a place appointed by the Speaker.

(b) Each Member intending to vote shall be provided with a ballot paper bearing the names of the candidates listed in alphabetical order.

(c) Each such Member may vote for as many or as few candidates on the ballot paper as he wishes, marking them in order of preference.

(d) Counting shall take place under arrangements made by the Clerk of the House.

(e) The ballot shall be counted under the Single Transferable Vote System with constraints that of those elected:

(i) two candidates shall come from the opposite side of the House to that from which the Speaker was drawn, the first of which candidates will be Chairman of Ways and Means and the second, Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means,

(ii) one candidate shall come from the same side of the House as that from which the Speaker was drawn and shall be First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, and

(iii) at least one man and at least one woman shall be elected across the four posts of Speaker and Deputy Speakers.

(f) The Speaker shall have discretion to vary the timings given in this order and power to give final directions on any matter of doubt arising from the conduct of a ballot or from an individual ballot paper.

(6) As soon as practicable after the votes have been counted the Speaker shall announce to the House the results of the ballot and direct the Clerk to enter the names of the elected Members in the Journal.

(7) Where a ballot is needed to elect to a single post of Deputy Speaker as a result of a change in the Speaker, the election shall be held with candidates from only the relevant side of the House.

(8) Each Deputy Speaker elected under this order is so elected to serve until the end of the Parliament.

(9) The Deputy Chairmen shall be entitled to exercise all the powers vested in the Chairman of Ways and Means, including his powers as Deputy Speaker.—(Ms Harman.)