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House of Commons Members’ Fund

Volume 603: debated on Monday 7 December 2015

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That Mr Richard Harrington be discharged as a Managing Trustee of the House of Commons Members’ Fund and Ian Blackford, Mrs Cheryl Gillan and Sir Alan Meale be appointed as Managing Trustees in pursuance of Section 2 of the House of Commons Members’ Fund Act 1939.—(Chris Grayling.)

This gives us an opportunity to ask the Leader of the House: whither the House of Commons Members’ Fund and the trustees whom we are appointing this evening? A number of us feel the members’ fund and the statute that set it up has slightly lost touch with today’s reality. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say, in a very brief response to this debate, that he is minded to have a look at the future constitution of the members’ fund and whether it might evolve into a House of Commons benevolent fund to look after the dependants of former Members of this House. At the moment, the benevolent fund aspect of the members’ fund plays too small a part and I think there is something to be said for establishing a proper benevolent fund that could then take over some of the responsibilities of the current members’ fund.

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and this issue is currently being pursued by our hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford). We do have to bear it in mind that one of the reasons this support has existed over the years is that for those unfortunate enough to lose their seats in this place at a general election, there can often be an immensely difficult transition. Often it is not as easy as some outside might think for them to move into employment, and of course they may run into difficulties later on in their careers.

This place has had a long and right tradition of paying due attention to, and looking after, those who have served this country and this House but who have ultimately found themselves in need. My hon. Friend’s point about the need for this to be a benevolent fund in the future is well worth serious consideration. I understand the point he is making. We have three excellent appointments in the new trustees who are joining the fund, and they could play an active role in that.

I should also like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington), who has done first-class work in this role and has now moved on, thanks to his recent appointment as the Minister with responsibility for Syrian refugees.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has made an important point, and I will make sure that his comments are drawn to the attention of the trustees. I encourage him to talk to my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley, but I will also ensure that the matter is put on to the agenda of the House of Commons Commission, to be discussed at a meeting in the near future. This is an area in which the House has always done the right thing in the past, and there is good reason for us to carry on doing so in the future.

Question put and agreed to.