Skip to main content

Draft Financial Services Bill (Joint Committee)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

I beg to move,

That this House concurs with the Lords Message of 21 June, that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083).

That a Select Committee of six Members be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Lords to consider the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083).

That the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 1 December 2011.

That the Committee shall have power—

(i) to send for persons, papers and records;

(ii) to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House;

(iii) to report from time to time;

(iv) to appoint specialist advisers; and

(v) to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.

That Mr Nicholas Brown, Mr David Laws, Mr Peter Lilley, David Mowat, Mr George Mudie and Mr David Ruffley be members of the Committee.

The Government are anxious to subject more Bills to pre-legislative scrutiny and as a result we are publishing more Bills in draft. The draft Financial Services Bill was presented to the House on 16 June, and we now want to make progress and to nominate the Commons membership of the Joint Committee on the Bill. Our proposal was blocked on an earlier occasion; hence, we have tabled the motion before us.

We believe that the quality of legislation is enhanced if more Bills can be subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny. I am disappointed that a small minority of Labour Members are seeking to stop the effective scrutiny of this legislation by blocking the motion. It is for the parties to nominate who represents them on such Committees, and it is a shame that Back-Bench Members are seeking to frustrate a position that has been agreed between the parties and, with their amendment, to skew the balance of the Committee towards the Opposition.

Does the Leader of the House recall that on four occasions last week Members objected to the motion? There were plenty of opportunities, if he had wished to do so, to engage in a discussion about what the problem was. Surely, if the Government had come to discuss this with relevant Members of the Opposition, this matter could have been resolved before tonight.

No, there is a convention that the nomination of Members to Joint Committees such as this are made by the political parties. That is the procedure that we have followed in this case and I regret that some Members have sought to frustrate that process.

It is the Government’s hope that this very important Bill will now be given the pre-legislative scrutiny it deserves and that these wrecking tactics will stop. I commend the motion to the House.

I rise to speak briefly to the motion. I agree with the Leader of the House that the Bill is extremely important and raises profound questions about the regulation of the financial services industry and the accountability of the new arrangements. It is important that the Joint Committee gets on with its work and I, like the right hon. Gentleman, am a strong supporter of scrutiny of this sort. As he has said, it is rather unusual for the House to debate such a Committee’s membership—an issue that ought to be quite straightforward.

Let me come to the heart of the matter concerning the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), as he is the subject of the amendment that some hon. Members have tabled. Hon. Members will recall that following the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges’ report on the right hon. Member for Yeovil and its findings against him, he came to the House on 12 May and made a personal statement, prior to his suspension from the House, and apologised. Now that the House has dealt with this case, whether Members agree or disagree with the outcome of the Standards and Privileges Committee process, seeking to withhold membership of a Committee as a means of taking further action against a Member is a difficult course for the House to pursue. After all, there may be other Members to whom some Members wish to object on other grounds when it comes to the membership of future Committees. We do not generally approach the putting together of Committees on that basis and it is not sensible to do so in this case. Either we are equal in this place or we are not.

I beg to move, amendment (a), in line 14, leave out ‘Mr David Laws’. [Hon. Members: “Shame!”] I hear cries of “shame” from the Chancellor’s former chief of staff, from the Liberal Democrat Whip and from many other members of the coalition Government. I took some advice this afternoon about the rules of this procedure because I wanted to be very clear about what I may or may not refer to. I have received clear advice that I may refer to the content of the recent report of the Standards and Privileges Committee and that I may make some general observations, but you will probably agree with me, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I would not be allowed to make accusations about an hon. Member that are not referred to in the report, and I will proceed on that basis.

The Bill is one of the most important Bills that the Government are introducing. I do not say that just because I have had a chance to glance through the weighty tome that the Government have introduced but because one of the great debates that the House will have in this Session is about how we can better regulate our financial industry. Without doubt there was a failure to regulate it in the previous Parliament—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I am sure that the hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) will nod away to that.

My hon. Friend says that regulation failed, and there were loud cheers from the Government Benches, but did not Members on the Government Benches call for less regulation of the financial services industry?

Once again, my hon. Friend anticipates my next sentence. I was about to remind the hon. Member for Devizes, if she were paying attention to the debate, that when she was penning speeches for her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and for the now Prime Minister, they on more than one occasion decried the fact that there was too much regulation of the financial services industry. The House does not need reminding that the hon. Lady and her cohorts believed that if we had less regulation we would have a better financial services industry.

But I refer the hon. Lady to the speeches that she used to pen for the Chancellor of the Exchequer before he got some better speechwriters, when he used to say, “You may say we have too much regulation—and I agree.” So the Bill—

Order. As hon. Members know, the debate is quite tight and we are stretching it beyond where we need to be. If we can come back to points that are more relevant, I am sure the House will be happier.

I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker. That allows me to pose a question to the Leader of the House. My understanding of the Order Paper is that the debate may continue beyond 10 pm. I am not sure of the mechanism that would be adopted, but my understanding is that the Government would like the debate to have the opportunity, if necessary, to continue beyond 10 pm. If that has been withdrawn, I would be grateful for clarification from the Chair.

The Leader of the House said in his brief yet succinct remarks that if we were to change the balance of the Committee, that would give the Opposition parties control of the Committee. I did not have the benefits of the wonderful education of many Members on the Government Benches because I grew up under the previous Conservative Government, but by my maths there would still be three members of the Conservative party and two members of the Opposition on the Committee. The Government would still have a majority. They are perfectly entitled to nominate a new member, if they choose to do so, and we would support a suitable candidate. Perhaps in his rush to get his suntan creams and holiday brochures out, the Leader of the House had not quite checked the membership of the Committee.

Would my hon. Friend like to take the opportunity to correct the record and the rather uncharitable statement made by the Leader of the House that those supporting the amendment are in some way attempting to undermine pre-legislative scrutiny? Does my hon. Friend agree that if there had been pre-legislative scrutiny at a much earlier stage in previous Parliaments, some of the issues in the financial sector may not have been as profound as they have been?

My hon. Friend is correct. I am baffled—I would happily take clarification from the Leader of the House or the Deputy Leader of the House—as to how removing one member of the Committee is tantamount to seeking to thwart the business of the House. My understanding—I am sure the Deputy Speaker would correct me if I was wrong—is that the Committee would still be quorate and would still be competent.

I look at the names of some members of the Committee and see good, learned and wise individuals from both sides of the House. At least one member, the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), is present in the Chamber to hear the discussion. The Committee consists of a competent set of Members from both sides of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie) is a long-standing member of the Treasury Committee.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity in referring to me. He is going through the list of people nominated to the Committee. How many of them does he think know more about international financial services than the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws)?

I will shortly move on to the thrust of my argument and come to the issue of the complications or otherwise for the Committee. We do not seek to thwart the aspects of pre-legislative scrutiny, but we do object to the Government’s choice of one specific individual to sit on the Committee. As I said, this is one of the most important pieces of legislation we will have before us in this Session, and possibly in this Parliament. One point on which both sides of the House would genuinely agree is that over the past few years there was a failing in the scrutiny and regulation of the financial industry. We can argue about who was more to blame for that and about light-touch regulation, or lighter regulation still—[Interruption.] I hear the chuntering from various sedentary positions and, were I to stray too far into the previous Government’s financial regulation regime, I suspect that you, might pull me up on that Mr Speaker.

This is about probity. Ultimately, this comes down to whether or not somebody—I refer to the Standards and Privileges Committee’s report—who was found to have had a serious lack of judgement, who knowingly and wilfully misled the Fees Office and who took significant sums of money, as the report states, is in fact a fit and proper person to sit on a Committee that will scrutinise the new financial services regime. I do not intend to read out the whole report and will stick very closely to the subject of the—

Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I must emphasise to him and to the House that this is not a debate on the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), and it certainly cannot be a rehashing, reworking or reiteration of the contents of a particular report. This is a debate on the establishment of a Joint Committee. Members are entitled to comment on whether they think the Committee should be established and, if they do not think that it should be or wish to amend its composition, to explain why. A general ad hominem attack on a particular individual is not the purpose of the debate and cannot become its substance. I know that the hon. Gentleman will speedily redirect his remarks in an entirely orderly way.

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. Obviously I took some very senior counsel this afternoon from Officers of the House, as you are aware, on how to stay in bounds and perhaps go offside, to use the modern—

Order. I say to the hon. Gentleman that, whatever senior counsel he sought and obtained, he can on this occasion make do with mine.

I always have great respect for your counsel, Mr Speaker, and obviously do not seek a time when you might perhaps be advising other Parliaments in other parts of the country, or other parts of the world. [Interruption.]

If I could hear myself speak, I would ask my hon. Friend whether he would care to comment on the fact that the constituency of Yeovil is an English constituency, whether he has considered the make-up of the Committee that is proposed, whether he perceives that it will in fact be an English Committee, rather than a United Kingdom one, and what the potential consequences might be, not least for his constituents, of that happening in such a biased way.

I obviously look forward to my hon. Friend’s contribution in due course.

I must say that I thought the cracks about monkeys and organ grinders that the hon. Member for Devizes made did nothing to raise the standard of the debate, but as she used to work for the Chancellor of the Exchequer I expected nothing more, because her speeches were never that good when she worked for him. It is important that we look at whether the people who are being put forward in general are of a correct measure. The hon. Member for Warrington South, who I think is now detained elsewhere, asked about the qualifications needed for serving on the Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and I are equally concerned about what qualifications should or may bar an individual Member from serving on the Committee. Having read from cover to cover the Standards and Privileges Committee report, and having read the introduction to the draft Bill prepared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his team about the need for financial probity and for a new set of regulations, I have severe doubts about whether one member of the Committee is adequately suited to the task.

In a week when Parliament has had to deal with some very severe accusations levelled against members of the Government and against members of Her Majesty’s police forces, when we have seen former special advisers being placed under arrest, and when Government Members simply argue, as I have heard them do today, that we will take people on the basis of the assurances they have given although they are under active police investigation, the public will look at this Committee and say that it beggars belief.

It has been said several times that the past week has seen Parliament at its best. How would the hon. Gentleman describe what he is doing now?

If the hon. Gentleman thinks back over the past 12 months, he will recall that my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) and for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) have almost single-handedly ploughed a furrow in highlighting an issue. Government Members heckled and shouted them down, and accused them of launching personal attacks on the Prime Minister.

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not be led astray into a spontaneous panegyric to his hon. Friends. He must focus very much on the matter in hand, which is the Joint Committee on the draft Financial Services Bill—quite a narrow brief, albeit an important one.

Obviously, Mr Speaker, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) led me down a very tempting path, and I will do my best not to be drawn down it again.

The draft Bill is a phenomenally large document. I am sure that on your evenings off, Mr Speaker, when you are drinking a glass of mulled wine, you will have had a chance to flick through its contents. It is a wide-ranging Bill that seeks, rightly, radically to overhaul our financial services industry. It is therefore right that the individuals from both Houses who are tasked with providing the legislative scrutiny are properly scrutinised themselves, because we are placing a huge amount of trust in their hands. I suspect, Mr Speaker, that if I were to go too far into the issue of trust you would rightly pull me up for it.

Members of both parties were implicated in various expenses issues. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that members of his own party who were so implicated should not serve on any Committee either?

The hon. Gentleman asks a valid question. As a new Member who unseated a former Member who had to pay back thousands of pounds, I am very much alive to these issues. I absolutely believe that if someone is forced to pay back £56,000 to which they were not entitled because they had knowingly misled the taxpayer—the Fees Office—they should be excluded from being a member of a committee that oversees the new financial services regulation. That goes to the heart of the issue. If the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me, I respect that, but I hope that he will indicate that that is his view. I do not see him indicating dissent, so I assume that he agrees.

My hon. Friend is focusing largely on the Commons composition of the Committee. Does he believe that the Lords composition makes it any broader or, to take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), any more representative?

I am most grateful, as ever, Mr Speaker, for your counsel. Of course, that is a debate for another time. As the Leader of the House is listening, perhaps we will have a discussion in future about the joint membership of the Committee and both Houses will be required to give their agreement, but that is not the issue before us today.

On no fewer than four occasions over the past seven days, the Government Whips have tried to slip this motion through literally on the nod at the end of the evening. On each occasion, an hon. Gentleman has objected. [Interruption.] It was an hon. Gentleman, as it was me and my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). Unless the hon. Member for Cambridge knows something I do not, I am fairly confident that I can refer to myself and my hon. Friend as gentlemen.

On each of those occasions, a number of brief back-channel discussions took place between various members of the Treasury Bench—I will not name them, even if they are here—about what was going on. They are fully aware of what this has been about. It was entirely a matter for those on the Treasury Bench. If they did not wish to have this debate tonight, they could have approached us to see whether there was substance to our objection, but they chose not to do so. Indeed, one member of the Treasury Bench thought that we were objecting to our own Members.

That is a very good question. I am looking at the many Liberal Democrats who are here tonight. I see the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle), who has a long track record in business, the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert), who is a new Member, and the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mr Hancock). All of them have had a distinguished service in the House for various lengths of time, all of them have experienced careers outside the House, and crucially, all of them have constituents who have suffered from the failures of financial regulation in the last Parliament. If the Treasury Bench had genuinely offered any other member of the Liberal Democrat party to be a member of the Committee, I would have been happy.

As that is the case and the hon. Gentleman wants to have the last word on who serves on the Committee, why did he not put another name forward?

I am grateful for that question. Obviously, I will not have the last word. Indeed, I imagine that you, will have the last word Mr Speaker when you read out the result of the Division that may occur later. Having taken advice from senior officers in the House, it is my understanding, although I have not checked the latest edition of “Erskine May”—the 24th edition, which was edited by the Clerk of the House, is out now and is a snip at £295—that Labour Members would not be allowed to put forward the name of a Liberal Democrat Member without their express consent. I fully understand why a Liberal Democrat Member would not seek publicly to undermine their parliamentary colleague and I respect that. It would be for the Government Whips to approach Liberal Democrat Members.

My hon. Friend is getting to the nub of one of the key issues. Is not the dilemma that, when wishing to amend the membership of a Standing Committee or any other Committee of the House, the modernisation of this place has not gone far enough for anything other than the usual channels to determine such things? It is only in the last year that Chairs of Select Committees have been elected by the House. Modernisation has only gone so far. In raising such matters in the House, we are rather trapped in the antiquated systems of how we can object.

My hon. Friend is entirely right. He will know that I am a member of the Procedure Committee, which is the successor to the Modernisation Committee. I have the privilege to serve with a number of the members of that Committee. He is right to say that this is something that I take a particularly keen—[Interruption.] I will give way.

I think that you will correct me, Mr Speaker, if in my youthful naivety I have misunderstood the system. The Committee of Selection considers names, and those are put forward to the House for its approval. I think—again, you will correct me, Mr Speaker, if I am not fully aware of the procedure as a naive new Member—that the House had an opportunity to vote on that.

Order. I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that I do not think the House requires a disquisition on his career trajectory, which resulted in his ultimate elevation to membership of the Procedure Committee. I am sure it is a matter of very great interest, but it can be kept for the long winter evenings.

Perhaps over a glass of mulled wine, Mr Speaker. I was simply answering the question asked by the hon. Member for Portsmouth South, but my point is that my appointment was subject to a vote of the whole House, and it was approved. [Interruption.] I suspect that with my career trajectory going downwards, as hon. Members suggest, that would not necessarily happen again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw is entirely right to say that we need to modernise the procedure. It is unfortunate that Members are being detained, and I do not wish to detain the House any longer—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I have never had so much support from the Government parties. All I would say is that it is entirely regrettable that, although the Government Whips may say otherwise, they were intransigent in not being prepared to have even a single formal conversation with Opposition Members to see whether a solution could be found. It is regrettable that Members are being kept from their mulled wine, so with that I will sit down with no further ado.

It is with pleasure that I address such a packed House. Having sat through and participated in a significant number of debates since the general election, I cannot recall on any occasion, even when there have been debates on so-called fundamental reform of the constitution by the Deputy Prime Minister, seeing so many Liberal Democrats present. I heard someone say from a sedentary position that this was Parliament at its worst, but it is a good sign of democracy for this type of debate to have so many active would-be participants. I welcome the Liberal Democrats into the House in such large numbers, and it is good to see that their coalition partners wish to see some balance and to be informed by the debate.

I hope that we can have the full, thorough and proper debate that the House has lacked in relation to the establishment of such Committees, which are a new venture for the House. They should generally be welcomed, but the Leader of the House and his shadow exemplified the bind that we are in, as democratic politicians in this House, when we attempt to amend anything in any way that has not gone through the “usual channels”.

I did not get a chance to notice this while I was speaking—following the rules, I was looking at you, Mr Speaker—but has my hon. Friend noticed that one of the chief cheerleaders tonight is a Liberal Democrat Whip?

We take the view that all Members of the House are equal, which is an important principle, so the ability to participate and influence should be equal. It is ironic, therefore, that when it comes to the selection of Committee members some are more equal than others. It seems to me that as we have started a modernisation process that is very slowly beginning to trickle through the House, after many years of waiting, that issue needs proper attention.

It is rather a shame that someone needs to table an amendment even to get the issue on to the Floor of the House. The Government were not going to allocate any time to debating this important Committee, its make-up, whether we should have it at all, the timetable allocated to it, the role of the House of Lords within it, whether the Lords should have a role in financial matters, or the issue of England versus the rest when it comes to the membership of the Committee. None of that could have been debated had not my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) and myself chosen to learn the rules and object at 10 o’clock on a number of occasions over the past week, and then to table an amendment. By its nature, that amendment has forced the Government to create time for this debate.

It is a little odd that the Government are seeking to have unlimited time for this debate, which can continue till any hour, when we have just debated major energy statements—a fundamental issue for each and every hon. Member and our constituents—with speech limits of five minutes per Member. That seems to me a poor allocation of time, but it is another example of the impotence of the Back Bencher in attempting to influence what goes on in here.

I do not court favour, and I never have, with any side of the House. Indeed, on some issues, on some occasions, I have been in a vocal but rather small all-party minority. When the expenses issue was first emerging, and this House was refusing to deal with it and was still not totally on top of it, the usual channels—or what I termed the “gentleman’s club”—were a hindrance to democracy and to our relationship with our voters.

The hon. Gentleman seems to be taking a very high moral tone, but as a person who has been serially rebuked by the Standards and Privileges Committee, is he therefore ruling himself out of any future Committee membership?

Mr Speaker, I do think that it would be appropriate to respond directly to the inaccuracies in the comments just made. However, there is an important point—

I shall give way in a minute.

There is an important point about who should be a Back Bencher and who should remain a Back Bencher, because within the House, some will always be fated to be Back Benchers, often at the behest of their party leader. In power, party leaders love to exercise the power to choose who will be in ministerial positions or sit on Committees and the rest. However, on occasion there is perhaps a democratic requirement that some people should choose to be Back Benchers, or be chosen to be Back Benchers, for the length of a Parliament. It can be quite cathartic, as a politician, to spend one’s time—

Order. This is not the occasion for the hon. Gentleman either to dilate or to rhapsodise about the merits of Back-Bench life. Anybody would think that he was seeking to imitate his hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), and to pen a book entitled, “How to be a Backbencher”. He is welcome to do that, but if he wishes to do so, he must do so outside the Chamber.

The hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) accused my hon. Friend of taking a high moral tone, but does he agree that surely a high moral tone is to be preferred to a low moral tone?

I am attempting simply to put across a few views that I believe would appropriately reflect the views of my constituents. I am putting no tone—high, low or otherwise—into this debate.

Members are elected to come and put forward in this House what we think appropriate. One thing that my constituents, and therefore I, would not regard as appropriate, and that the House overall should not regard as appropriate, is having a Joint Committee made up exclusively of English members. A Joint Committee on the draft Financial Services Bill that reflects this House, in the way that Select Committees do, ought to be more reflective of the entirety of the UK, and not just of England. I say that with some irony, because I am one of those who has argued that the English voice has been understated in this House.

Our colleagues from every corner of Scotland, not just Edinburgh, are always rightly happy to demonstrate the importance of financial services—

It may assist my hon. Friend to learn that I have more than 2,000 people working in the banking industry in my constituency, not to mention the thousands who make the lovely commute every morning over the bridges to Edinburgh.

I put it to my hon. Friend that it would be an own goal by this Parliament, not least considering the job losses in the Royal Bank of Scotland and other institutions in Scotland and elsewhere, to go ahead with this Committee with only English members. One of the niceties—

The hon. Gentleman is obviously concerned by the lack of members from Scotland. There are two Labour members on the Committee, so perhaps one of them could be replaced by a member from Scotland. That would resolve the problem without bothering about any other party.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point. There are other reasons why, when considering altering the balance of the Committee to represent the balance in Parliament more appropriately, we picked a Liberal Democrat to remove, not a replacement from my party. No replacement will be required if this resolution is passed, as I hope it will be. One of the consequences would be that the Government could rethink the membership of the Committee. The question of how many members, and the balance from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England—

The hon. Gentleman started his very long speech by saying that all Members were equal, but all his points so far contradict that principle. Can he not just end it?

The hon. Gentleman is rather intemperate. Here we are having a good and important debate, and I anticipated an informed intervention from him. Instead, he merely wishes to curtail debate on equality. That says something about these new Conservatives, the partners of the Liberal Democrats—

I am all in favour of gender balance on Committees, but the hon. Gentleman is a member of the Treasury Committee, which has only one lady member. I do not recall him ever making the point that he or his Labour colleagues—all of whom are men, of course—should be replaced by women.

The hon. Gentleman is not an hon. Friend of mine—to use the parliamentary language—so he is not privy to the debates and discussions in the parliamentary Labour party. However, I assure him, and the House, that this is an issue that I have raised. It is one of the traps that the House has set for itself, in the same way as it has with this motion. How do we achieve gender balance? I intend to make some suggestions about what we can do if the amendment is passed, and why that is so important.

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that his party has just had the opportunity to appoint a new member to the Treasury Committee, but it did not take the opportunity to appoint a woman. We were joined by another Labour man for the first time today. The hon. Gentleman claims to be concerned about gender balance, but this rather spiteful amendment would have been better if it had proposed such a balance, rather than being a veiled attack on one hon. Member.

There is nothing veiled or spiteful about it. I think that the hon. Lady should withdraw her allegation. As she should know, being a woman on the Treasury Committee, the power is not there—

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15),

That, at this day’s sitting, the Motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to Draft Financial Services Bill (Joint Committee) shall be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.— (Mr Dunne.)

The House proceeded to a Division.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to Draft Financial Services Bill (Joint Committee).—(Mr Goodwill.)

Debate resumed.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it usual or in order for Front-Bench Members to both shout and object on matters that are Back-Bench objections? I gather that the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) and others may have objected in order to force the last vote, but it is my understanding that that is not the normal convention.

The issue is whether there is an objection. There are matters that some people, including the right hon. Gentleman, might deem unusual, and that may be so in terms of party combat, but that does not necessarily have an implication for the conduct of proceedings in Parliament or for the judgment of the Chair. That said, the right hon. Gentleman has put his point squarely on the record.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Going one stage further as one of those Members who have, perhaps, been around for longer than we ought to have been, am I right in saying that there is a convention that votes follow voices, but that is not invariably the case?

It is not, but I strongly deprecate the suggestion that the hon. Gentleman has been around for longer than he ought to have been. [Interruption.] I am not wishing his untimely end, notwithstanding the sedentary dissent of the Patronage Secretary.

As I was saying, equality is a fundamental issue in respect of Treasury matters. The make-up of this Committee reinforces and exemplifies an historical bias on equality that is a significant bar to effective decision making cross-party and over many generations. One only needs to look at the fact that Chancellors of the Exchequer have been male throughout the centuries. Therefore, in the modern era when all parties rightly, and with increasing success, are bringing women forward into Parliament, this Committee’s membership demonstrates an old-fashionedness and backdatedness that this House should not endorse tonight.

This gets to the nub of the gentleman’s club and the way in which decisions are being made and have been made. I suspect that no such discussions on equality took place as the names were put forward, and that, in fact, the different parties put forward their names in accordance with the usual time-honoured, historical tradition, and nobody then took an overview. I suspect that the bias against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland came about in exactly the same way.

Based on this argument, I am surprised that two male Members have tabled this amendment. Surely 50% of them should have been female, but I do not think that that is the case.

It is good that serious interventions are being made. On Treasury matters, there is a historical bias going back over the centuries, but this Parliament has not got to grips with it. We made exactly the same mistakes when establishing the Select Committees. The usual channels have brought forward names and those names are not reflective of the House or the country. That is a fundamental weakness.

Will the hon. Gentleman be moving on to the next point, which is the disproportionate number of people called David on this Committee?

I will not be making frivolous points about the forename or surname of any of the Members put forward for this Committee. However, the question of gender balance is not going to be knocked off the agenda so easily, because it is fundamental to the whole workings of Parliament. If Parliament in the modern era is portraying itself through one of the very first Joint Scrutiny Committees to be established and the elected House of Commons manages to get itself in a bind whereby all the Members put forward are English males, we are letting the country down. We are also letting down the principle of modernisation, which, superficially at least, is shared by those on both sides of the House. If we are really trying to encourage a wider array of people to take an interest in this House and, in future years, to stand for this House, how we portray ourselves in the Committees that we create is a fundamental principle.

I put it to the House: in what other way can the House manifest its commitment to an inclusive Parliament—a Parliament that is representative of all parts of the country, of all sections of the country and of both sides of the gender division within the country? There is a fundamental point at issue, which the Government, in failing to give proper time to have this proposal debated, are shying away from. That is a weakness at the heart of government.

My hon. Friend is making a compelling argument. Has he considered the idea that in the future it might be helpful if a statement were attached to each name, spelling out what the usual channels felt were the Member’s qualifications for this Committee or for the Select Committees?

No, I disagree with my hon. Friend. Others were arguing in interventions—they are welcome to make the point at greater length in debate if they wish—that this Committee should be based on experts, but that is a fundamental flaw of logic. The idea that it has to be bankers and specialist economists who investigate, make decisions on our behalf and carry out pre-legislative scrutiny and that the basis of these bodies should be some academic prowess or past profession is part of the old school and the gentlemen’s club. There is no reason why those from manual working backgrounds or care backgrounds should not also be able to participate in making such decisions as effectively as anyone else as members of these Committees.

When the world looks in, and, in particular, when our constituents look in, and we examine how far we have modernised or not modernised, as exemplified by the failure in the make-up of this Committee, we find, at the very end of the first year of this two-year Parliament and as we go into the summer recess, that the problem is magnified. We are talking about one of the last decisions made by Parliament before the recess. It is a recess that some believe is too long—I tend to share that view—but through which this Joint Committee will apparently be working. If that is the signal we send out to the country of how we see the modern world and financial services and how we intend to influence such services, it undermines our ability to do the kind of things we want to, although we disagree on the precise remedies. Removing such influence from ourselves and weakening ourselves by having such an unrepresentative Committee is a fundamentally flawed policy, but other weaknesses in the make-up of the Committee must be explored.

One such weakness is the fact that the balance between Government and Opposition does not reflect the balance in Parliament. That seems to me to be fundamentally wrong. There may or may not be a desire to have votes in the Committee, but, as regards the contribution, input and perspectives raised when four of the members come from the Government side and two from the combined Opposition side, that distribution does not seem to be democratic or appropriate. It does not reflect the election results.

Unless the number of members is increased, changing the balance by one person from 4:2 to 3:3 brings equality, which does not reflect the present situation in the House of Commons, does it?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but there is no suggestion of any name being added—certainly not from me. The suggestion is merely to remove one name to create a better balance of 3:2. Of course, one never could and never should attempt to use an entirely mathematical equation to resolve such matters, but the principle that the balance in Committees should reflect the balance in the elected House is surely one this House would have to abide by. The hon. Gentleman is right; there could have been other ways of doing this, such as adding another member, but it seems to me that adding another member, perhaps from one of the smaller parties, would be rather a hostage to fortune, because we must ask which Member it would be and from which party. Back Benchers could not simply be nominated at random without some process to enable consultation—the very consultation that the Government failed properly to carry out for this Committee. We all know why the make-up of the Committee is as it is and what the Government’s agenda is.

Perhaps my hon. Friend does not recall the exchange between me and the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mr Hancock), who is no longer in his place. I explicitly said that we would expect and hope that the Liberal Democrat party would offer a fresh name in the coming days.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, from a sedentary position, says that that is inconsistent, but there is no requirement for those proposing an amendment to agree on every remedy that would emanate from it.

My purpose is not to make any comment on individual Members but to ensure that because there is a balance between the other place and this place the Government take the issue back and rethink the entire make-up of the Committee in order properly to reflect the Parliament that we have, the elections we have had and the modern world we live in. I seek no more than that, but of course my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife, who has added his name to the amendment, may have other, additional and different reasons. That does not negate the argument; indeed, one could argue that in a democracy it strengthens the case because there are different arguments from different perspectives with different options provided. The principle remains the same, however: it is invidious to have a balance of 4:2, four from the Government side and two from all the combined Opposition parties. However one looks at it, that in no way reflects the result of the last election.

It seems to me rather demeaning for this Parliament to go into such a long summer recess with this Committee apparently sitting through it with such imbalance and such bias. This question of priority and of why the Committee is sitting through the summer is another reason why the amendment has been tabled. If the amendment was passed, one would hope that the Government would be forced to rethink at this late stage. They chose not to table the debate earlier, although they had the opportunity to do so, but one would hope that the time for reflection they would have over the recess would also mean that the proposal for this biased and unrepresentative group, in relation to the general election, to Parliament as a whole, to the nations of the United Kingdom, to the gender balance in the House, to democracy and to the world in which we live, could not happen. It seems to me a wrong priority in the month of August, when there are many important things that we could be deliberating and engaging on, for this Joint Committee to be establishing its work. A slight delay allowing the Government to rethink, reformulate and re-democratise the proposal would be wholly in order. I am sure that in their heart of hearts that is exactly what hon. Members are thinking tonight, having heard the arguments that have been put forward. No hon. Member would want to go into this long recess having taken a decision so unrepresentative of our country, our Parliament and the world in which we live.

There is another fundamental issue at stake that has not yet been addressed, which the amendment would also allow reconsideration of—the giving away of financial control and powers to the other place. Important debates and deliberations on the future of the other place are currently going on, such as whether it should be partially elected—80% elected—how many should sit in it, where they should come from and what the time scale for reform should be. Those are all important issues, not least to parliamentarians in this House. Pre-empting that by giving financial powers to the other place—as the proposal is, in essence, a move towards doing—by having it scrutinise the draft Financial Services Bill jointly with this House is a start on a slippery slope in relation to the historical division on financial matters that has existed ever since democracy in this place was established. The proposal begins to unravel that and one might think that there are some within the coalition whose very agenda that is—those who want a proportionally elected second Chamber that has those financial powers. It seems to me that they have managed to sneak in, through this proposal at this late hour and this late stage—indeed, it would have been without this debate had we not tabled this amendment—potentially a constitutional issue of profound ramifications. It would mean handing over, albeit the very first semblance of doing so, financial powers, decision-making powers and authority to a second Chamber that some want to become an elected Chamber in the very near future.

There will be different views about that and I do not intend to go into what those views are—that is for another day—but it is relevant to the amendment to point out the consequences. Hon. Members who vote through this unwise, undemocratic, unegalitarian, anti-regions, anti-nations, badly thought-out, badly timetabled, rushed and last-minute proposal will be opening this House to potential ridicule from future generations who come here. They will ask when was the moment when we handed over to the other place that first little bit of power in relation to financial matters. When did we allow the second Chamber—

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I put it to you that the question of the allocation of powers to the other place is completely outside the scope of the motion?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I was listening intently and I was about to say, which I shall now do, that we are concerning ourselves in this debate with the establishment, composition and remit of the draft Financial Services Bill Joint Committee, upon which subject the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) is tabling and, I think, speaking to an amendment relating to a narrow part of the matter—namely, a particular member of the Committee. A wider dilation about possible future transfers of power, which might haunt the hon. Gentleman, are not subject matter for this evening’s debate, to which I know he will now return.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your advice. I seek your clarification on one important matter. It was my intention, as demonstrated by my previous remarks, to confine myself to one contribution, looking at the substantive motion as well as the amendment. I may be in error in so doing and may require a second speech. It was my intention to restrict myself to a single speech, and I seek your guidance in relation to that.

The hon. Gentleman should proceed with his speech according to his own lights. It is not the normal practice of the Chair to conduct a running commentary on the speech of any hon. Member or to advise an hon. Member in advance of when he might inadvertently be about to slip beyond order. The hon. Gentleman can protect himself.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that helpful guidance.

The final point that I wish to make in relation to the amendment is that the randomness of selection of an individual member to remove can have many motives and be for many reasons. This important proposal by the Government is fundamentally flawed in its make-up, as I have outlined, being English only and male only, with the Committee meeting as a priority during the summer and being a Joint Committee with the House of Lords.

The weakness of the usual channels, inspired by Government and the Government’s timetabling, has meant that we have not been able to have this debate without amendment. I therefore urge that in future when such matters are before the House, they should not be tabled to be nodded through at 10 pm with no debate or require objections from individual Members or groups of Members in order to stop that process, requiring an amendment to allow a debate both on the amendment and on the issues underlying the make-up of the Committee and the flawed and biased decision of Government in that regard. That is the Government’s responsibility. We as a House have a responsibility to hold the Government to account and to ensure that they do not get away with such sloppiness in their programming of legislation that they put legislation—

I am rather disappointed that my hon. Friend seems to be coming to the end of his speech, which I am enjoying so much. Does he agree that there are far too many tight programme motions in the Chamber and that we should have more thorough debates to make sure that every point can be thoroughly discussed, as my hon. Friend is doing?

Order. That is a most interesting intervention, but sadly it has absolutely nothing to do with the establishment, composition or remit of the Joint Committee on the Draft Financial Services Bill.

I shall therefore humbly ignore my hon. Friend’s intervention and conclude my remarks. As guardians of our democracy, albeit within the confines of the gentlemen’s club and the usual channels, and despite the weaknesses imposed upon us by the lack of modernisation, it is our responsibility and duty to expose flawed proposals, such as how the Government have unnaturally put together this unrepresentative and biased group without allowing us a debate that is timetabled in a proper and normal way. It is the Government’s responsibility to get that right, and I implore them to do so in future to save us having to object repeatedly at 10 o’clock at night to the flawed logic and bad politics that they have had to use—we all appreciate that it is a difficult time for the coalition—in order to try to hold these two ramshackle coalition partners together.

It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). As he knows, I was born in his constituency, so I have a fond spot for the area in north Nottinghamshire that he represents. I wish to oppose his amendment, but also to raise some concerns about the motion.

It is important that the work of the Committee focuses on getting this right. We all remember, certainly those of us from the north-east, that the first domino to fall in the financial crisis was Northern Rock. We saw people quite rightly queuing round the block, fearing for their savings and worrying what would come next. Getting regulation right will be very important, and therefore the work of the Committee will be very important not only for this generation, but for future generations.

It is clear that this Government, the previous Government and the previous Conservative Government grappled with getting the balance right between regulation and having a free market that allows markets to generate the capital and finance that industry and individuals require. Therefore, the Committee will be very important. The task we have set it, in quite a short time scale, which I will come on to in a minute, is rather intriguing. It is a little like the ark of the covenant, in the sense that I will be amazed if the Committee finds the perfect system for regulation.

The nature of the Committee was referred to earlier. The Government brought forward the White Paper setting out the draft regulation. I am a big supporter of draft legislation. I do not think that the press and public have quite got a handle on it yet, because when Governments change draft legislation it is seen as a defeat for them, and that should not be seen as the way forward.

I very much agree with what my hon. Friend is saying. Does he not agree that more pre-legislative scrutiny would improve the quality of legislation and that we should have more of it?

I agree. To be honest, my answer to the question of the second Chamber is ultimately to vote to abolish it. I have always been a unicameralist and think that if we did the job here better we would get legislation that was not only better, but more timely and well drafted, and we would not have the theatricals that we have to go through with the other place.

The draft legislation is being put forward and I welcome that process. I sat on one of the very first Joint Committees in 2003—the Joint Committee on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill. For a new Member, that was a very good process and learning curve, because it included young and inexperienced Members of this House, such as the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) and myself, and Members of the House of Lords, such as Lord Archer, a former Solicitor-General, and Lord Condon, who is a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner. They brought a wealth of experience to that process, which was a good one in that it could not be replicated by the usual way in which we conduct legislative scrutiny in this place. The most important thing was that out of the 130 amendments that were tabled, well over 100 were accepted. The important thing about this Committee will be whether it genuinely conducts pre-legislative scrutiny and whether the Government will really consider changing their proposals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw talked about the House of Lords. I feel uncomfortable not about joint legislative scrutiny with the House of Lords, which is a good process, but about having it for financial matters. That makes me a bit nervous. Not only the membership of the Committee from this House, but the selection process in the other place, which is nothing to do with us, as I well know, have not been thought through. Getting the balance right is a difficult job. The supremacy of this place in dealing with financial issues has to be maintained. I would not like, as my hon. Friend said, for this to be a chink in the armour that breaks the convention that this House, not the other place, deals with finance. Unfortunately, that point seems to have been glossed over in the way that the Government and the usual channels have put the process together. The Procedure Committee or others might want to look in detail at how such Joint Committees come into being. I would not want it to become a regular occurrence for Joint Committees, including those considering financial issues, to have Members of the other place sitting on them and determining what is taken forward.

It will be difficult to get the Bill right. It will be like finding the ark of the covenant to find a regulatory system that everyone agrees with and that protects the public from the scenes that we saw a few years ago. It is interesting that we hear the Conservatives say these days that they are now for more regulation, even though in the 1980s they deregulated the financial markets and then called for less regulation when the previous Labour Government of whom I was a member were bringing in legislation.

I am concerned about the short time scale that is being allowed for the Bill. The motion says that

“the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 1 December 2011.”

We are about to go into a long recess and the Committee will have to work through that to keep to that timetable. I wonder why that date was inserted. Getting this right is more important than any headlines the Government wish to create so that they can say they have solved the problem of the regulation of the banks. The date needs to be reconsidered and the timetable extended.

If the date is so important, why did not the hon. Gentleman table his own amendment? Why does he think that the Committee that this House is about to appoint is incapable of reporting to the House if it feels that it has not completed its deliberations? Its members have a mind of their own—they do not need the supervision that he is attempting to give them.

The hon. Gentleman is being a bit petulant—[Interruption.] Pedantic, even. I do not understand why. In my conversations with him, we have never agreed about anything, but we usually get on quite well.

Without wanting to be diverted by my right hon. Friend, I certainly do agree with the hon. Gentleman about defence expenditure and the shambles that this Government are making of defence, but I shall not digress to that.

It is important that we get this right, so I do not think that having 1 December is right. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the Committee will change the date if it wishes.

We must look at what is being put forward. The motion states that the Committee shall have five powers:

“to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House; to report from time to time; to appoint special advisers; and to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.”

I will go through each of those because they are relevant to the work of the Committee. On the power to send for persons, papers and records—

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made.

Amendment negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.


That this House concurs with the Lords Message of 21 June, that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083).

That a Select Committee of six Members be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Lords to consider the draft Financial Services Bill presented to both Houses on 16 June (Cm 8083).

That the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 1 December 2011.

That the Committee shall have power—

(i) to send for persons, papers and records;

(ii) to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House;

(iii) to report from time to time;

(iv) to appoint specialist advisers; and

(v) to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom.

That Mr Nicholas Brown, Mr David Laws, Mr Peter Lilley, David Mowat, Mr George Mudie and Mr David Ruffley be members of the Committee.