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Committee on Standards

Volume 623: debated on Wednesday 15 March 2017

[Relevant Documents: Report of the House of Commons Commission, Lay Members of the Committee on Standards: Nomination of Candidates, HC 1073.]

I beg to move,

That, in accordance with Standing Order No. 149A, Tammy Banks, Rita Dexter and Paul Thorogood be appointed as lay members of the Committee on Standards for a period of six years from 31 March 2017.

I am very happy to be standing in for the Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) today. The motion proposes the appointment of three lay members to the Committee on Standards to replace the three appointed at the end of 2012 when we first changed the membership of the Committee to include people from outside Parliament. This was a radical reform at the time, and it is greatly to the credit of the three members appointed then—Sharon Darcy, Peter Jinman and Walter Rader—that the motion today is seen as business as usual. I would like to express the thanks of the House of Commons Commission—and, I am sure, of the whole House—to Sharon, Peter and Walter for their dedication to their role and for the contribution they have made to increasing the rigour and public profile of the standards system in the House.

The terms of office of those three original lay members come to an end on 30 March this year, so last summer the Commission started the recruitment process to identify their replacements. We were keen that there should not be a gap in membership and I am glad that by holding this debate today we will achieve that aim. The three names recommended to the House in the motion were chosen as the result of a fair and open competition, as required under the Standing Order. The Commission’s report sets this out in more detail for those who are interested. I would like to thank the recruitment panel for all its work in sifting the many applications and putting forward three excellent candidates.

Turning briefly to those candidates, I am sure the House will agree that they will increase diversity on the Standards Committee and that they will bring a broad range of insights and experience to their work on the Committee. Tammy Banks is the chief executive of Yorkshire and Humberside Circles of Support and Accountability, a charity based in York. Rita Dexter has had a lifetime of service in local government and recently retired as deputy commissioner of the London Fire Brigade. Paul Thorogood is the chief executive officer of the Football Foundation. Further biographical details of all the candidates are published in the Commission’s report for the information of the House and beyond.

The motion proposes that the three candidates be appointed for six years, which is the maximum term allowed under the Standing Order. This is to allow continuity of service and experience on the Committee and to stagger the departure dates of the seven lay members taken as a whole. I am sure that other Members will join me in wishing the new lay members well in their new role. I ask the House to agree to the motion for the appointments.

As Chair of the Committee on Standards, I would like to speak briefly to support the motion today. As part of my role as Chair, I was a member of the recruitment panel to select the candidates for the lay member posts. The field of potential members was exceptionally strong, and I am sure that the three names that emerged from it will add great value to the work of the Committee. I look forward to welcoming Tammy, Rita and Paul to their new posts if the House passes the motion today.

I would also like to express the thanks of the Committee—and indeed of my personal thanks—to three of the current lay members, Sharon Darcy, Peter Jinman and Walter Rader, who leave us at the end of the month. I believe that they are the first lay members ever to be appointed to a parliamentary Committee, although we now have a total of seven such members. They had the difficult task of taking on and shaping a completely new role at the start of 2013, and doing so at a time when I think it is fair to say that the standards system in the House was not held in high regard.

Sharon, Peter and Walter have brought to their role a deep experience of other regulatory regimes and a determination to improve the system in the House. During their time in post, they have achieved a great deal. They have made a full contribution to all reports and discussions in Committee, much to the improvement of our decisions and processes. They have also encouraged us to look beyond our bread-and-butter disciplinary cases and think about how we can change the culture of standards in the Commons and engage the public more in our work. I know that all three of the departing lay members think there is still more to be done, but I hope that they also have a sense of achievement because of the changes they have brought about in the last four years. They leave a legacy that I am sure will be picked up and pursued by all colleagues on the Standards Committee as we go forward.

I rise briefly to associate myself with the comments already made. I have been a member of the Committee on Standards for—I cannot believe that I can say this—almost two years, and I want to pay tribute to our lay colleagues who are retiring. I have seen at firsthand how they have brought intelligence and, most of all, perspective to our debates. They have allowed us to consider things and arrive at a view that would have been different had they not been present. Members of this House can sometimes be so embroiled in something that we are unable to rise above it and see ourselves as others would see us. That is the contribution that the lay members have made. I concur with the appointment of the new lay members and look forward to working with them.

Question put and agreed to.