Skip to main content

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

Volume 708: debated on Monday 31 January 2022

[Relevant document: First Report of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Appointment of IPSA Board Member, HC 1032, published 13 January 2022.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint Lea Paterson to the office of ordinary member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority for a period of five years with effect from 14 March 2022.—(Stuart Andrew.)

In the absence of the Leader of the House, I rise to support the motion. There has been a fair and rigorous process to appoint the new member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority board to fill the vacancy created by Richard Lloyd, who has gone on to chair IPSA. I put on the record the official Opposition’s gratitude and thanks to the recruitment panel—particularly Philippa Helme, the chair of the panel—which was conducted with due care and attention. It was noted that Ms Paterson expressed to the recruitment panel her full commitment to public service as her primary motivator, and I know we wish her well as she begins her term on the IPSA board.

I will give the Leader of the House the time to recover from the other duties that he has been undertaking during the course of what has undoubtedly been a busy day.

I know nothing of Ms Lea Paterson, either favourable or unfavourable, although it is a reasonable CV. However, once again, the appointment is from a very narrow band of our society. Let us look at the document that specifies who can be on IPSA. By the way, all these experts that it has have not led to a better service for Members of the House. Quite frankly, it is absolutely shocking. The administrative burden on Members of Parliament gets worse and worse for what should be basic, simple jobs.

Let us look at the jobs. At least one Member must have held high judicial office—that has kept the lawyers happy, with a sinecure. Another one must be an auditor, so we have looked after the accountants. Another one is a person who has previously been a Member. This vacancy, however, is not specific; it is a general vacancy. Once again, did they go out and look across the broad spectrum of our society, for people with experience? Well, they went off to recruitment consultants Veredus, to scour beyond a mile of Westminster to find somebody who fitted the bill. I think that is extremely unlikely. I do not think they went to the north, the midlands, Scotland or Wales. They tried to reach out, by going to The Times appointments adverts, which does not actually have a very high circulation in Smethwick or, I expect, many other constituencies. It is an excellent newspaper, but it is not the way to reach many people in our society who have great experience.

Interestingly enough, many successful firms are far more adventurous in their recruitment processes. Who do they often look for to bring into the ranks of management? They look for capable shop stewards. Sometimes, in my experience they were the worst ones to deal with because they knew the ropes. These are people who really know how industry and society work: people who are running hospitals; ward sisters who are running wards; people who are managing our transport and logistics system. Those are people who understand how life works.

We are supposed to be running an expenses system, yet we are only recruiting, once again, from the great and the good. That is a problem across Government appointments and society. Then we wonder why government in this country is so badly managed? It is because we draw from such a narrow pool. I regret that the Opposition go along with that. There ought to be a root and branch examination to look at where we draw people from and what their work and life experience is. I hope that the Leader of the House, in dealing with the specific, will also address the general point I am making about how we should broaden our society.

I apologise for my momentary delay. The motion proposes that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will appoint the person to the office of ordinary member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority for a period of five years, with effect from 14 March 2022.

The Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority produced a report that is tagged to the motion—its first report of 2022. I have no doubt that Members—the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) is certainly one of them—will have studied the report carefully before agreeing to the motion. I thank Philippa Helme for running the selection process diligently.

I would like to try to respond to what the right hon. Gentleman said, because it is important that people are drawn or apply from as wide a background as possible. That is something that he has tirelessly encouraged, and it goes along with the Government policy of trying to move Ministries outside SW1 to other parts of the country, to ensure greater involvement of people up and down the country from various degrees of experience. I know that Mr Speaker is keen to encourage applicants who do not necessarily fit the entirely traditional bill. I have to say, I think he thinks that only applicants from Lancashire would be suitable for most posts, whatever that post happens to be.

Can I put it to the Leader of the House that time after time we get recommendations to appointments, and they all come from the same narrow social circle? It is not even, as it was with the traditional Tory party, that they come from industry. We almost never have anybody from industry; they are always from the professions and the City of London. The person we are being recommended was a journalist and then worked at the Bank of England. Could we not have somebody who worked for Jaguar Land Rover, either as a convenor or as the manager?

The right hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. I think we do want to fish in a bigger pool, and I think we should always be very concerned about what might broadly be called the quangocracy. We do not want this country run by people who pass and bounce from quango to quango, and pick up nice appointments along the way.

In response to the point the Leader of the House has just made, with the earnest desire he expresses to ensure that we broaden the pool, what examples can he point to of how the recruitment panel attempted to broaden the pool in this particular case?

The process of the recruitment panel and what it looked at is all set out in its report. It had quite a large number of applicants, and it has to be said that Lea Paterson was the outstanding applicant by a long margin. She is not a characteristic quangocrat: that has not been her career. Until recently, she was the executive director of people and culture at the Bank of England. She is currently an independent member of the University of Warwick remuneration committee. She has previously held a number of senior management positions at the Bank of England, including being the director of independent evaluation. Before working for the Bank, she was a journalist, as economics editor, at The Times. I am afraid I have a particular bias in favour of The Times, its being the great newspaper of record and having fantastic editors, particularly in the 1970s. Journalists are not typical quangocrats, it has to be said—they are normally the ones throwing stones into the pools of the quangocracy—so I do not think that is the type of person we are appointing today.

However, I do take very seriously the criticisms from the right hon. Member for Warley. It is really important that we try to attract people of ability from across the country, because that is what we are trying to do as Members of Parliament. We come together from across the country to try to support a Government who will act with wisdom and discernment, which I am glad to say is what we have at the moment. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue his campaign, and I know that there are people sympathetic to it.

In the meantime, I am proud to be able to recommend this Humble Address to the House. If the appointment were to be made, Lea Paterson will serve on IPSA for five years. I commend this motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.