Skip to main content

House of Commons Commission

Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 24 November 2010

I beg to move,

That Sir Stuart Bell be discharged and Mr Frank Doran be appointed as a member of the House of Commons Commission under the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978.

The motion simply replaces one member of the House of Commons Commission with another. The individual leaving the Commission, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell), has been a member since 2000. He is a long-standing Member of this House who has already received the signal recognition of a knighthood from Her Majesty in 2004. I am sure the whole House will want to place on the record its appreciation of his long service to the Commission under the chairmanship of two Speakers.

Mr Speaker, as you know, the last decade has not been an easy time for the Commission, dominated as it has been by the problems associated with Members’ allowances. This is not the right time to reopen old wounds, suffice to say the Commission has sometimes been identified by the outside world as a roadblock to reform. That has not always been the case. Of course there are many other areas in which the Commission has an important influence over the House, and hon. Members will wish to thank those who serve on the Commission for their contribution to the effective working of this place.

May I warmly welcome to the Commission, if the House agrees to the motion, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran), who has been an assiduous and effective member of House Committees over the past five years as a distinguished Chair of the Administration Committee and as a member of the Finance and Service, Liaison and Accommodation and Works Committees? At a time when the Commission, quite rightly, will be considering a programme of efficiencies in the way Parliament operates, the House will be reassured by the wealth of experience and knowledge that the hon. Gentleman will bring to those discussions. I commend the motion to the House.

I am very pleased to support the motion. One thing that Members learn after a few years in the House is that those who serve on the House’s internal Committees do a vast amount of work, which often goes unrecognised, so I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell) for his service to the House over a number of years.

My hon. Friend is a long-standing Member, and prior to becoming the Member for Middlesbrough, he fought an election in the constituency of Hexham. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Roy Hattersley; served on the Front Bench as a spokesman on trade and industry and on Northern Ireland; and, latterly, has given sterling service to the House of Commons Commission and the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. It has not been an easy time, but I put on the record my personal thanks for the amount of work he did in trying to explain to the general public exactly what Members’ expenses were for and how they were dealt with. It was at times an uphill task, but he made a sterling effort.

I also welcome, if the House agrees to the motion, the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran) to the Commission. At various times he has been the Member for Aberdeen North, Aberdeen Central and Aberdeen South—without moving very far. I know from having had the privilege of serving with him on the Administration Committee that he has a devotion to the interests of this House and its Members, and that he brings to everything he does an energy and commitment, as well as an analytical mind and a real commitment to getting the best possible deal for Members.

I am very pleased to support the motion, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Deputy Leader of the House and the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) for what they have said by way of tribute to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell). The contribution that he has made has been enormous; it is, and certainly should be, widely appreciated across the House. My understanding is that the hon. Gentleman has served on the Commission since 21 February 2000, so his service dates back well over 10 years, and it follows that he has sat on the Commission under three successive Speakers. I know of the seriousness with which he has taken his commitment to the Commission and the passion that he feels for the interests of the House as an institution and of individual Members. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the thanks expressed to him in the course of the debate on the motion.

Of course, I associate myself, as Speaker and as the person who chairs the Commission, with what the Deputy Leader of the House and the hon. Lady have said about the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran), who has a long-standing and respected track record of commitment to this institution and to the various Committees which are so vital to its effective functioning.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have found out this evening, I think perhaps because of the events going on outside, that somebody who is currently under investigation by the House’s Standards and Privileges Committee has been awarded a parliamentary pass. Given that there are some very serious accusations and allegations, and indeed that this investigation is going on, would you perhaps talk to the Serjeant at Arms and report back to me, privately if it is not appropriate to do so in the House, to clarify whether it is appropriate for Members to have to share offices and corridors with somebody who is under investigation by one of our own Committees?

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. The allocation of passes is not a matter ordinarily subject to comment or exchange on the Floor of the House. However, I am happy to acquaint myself with the detail of the issue that he has described and, if appropriate, I will revert to him. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman and to the House.