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Committee on Standards

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 4 November 2021

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I now call Wendy Chamberlain to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The hon. Member has three minutes in which to make such an application.

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the matter of the consequences of the decision of the House on 3 November relating to standards.

This morning, Lord Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life said:

“In my view yesterday’s vote on the report of the Commons Standards Committee was a very serious and damaging moment for Parliament and for public standards in this country.”

We would all do well to reflect on those words.

The consequences of yesterday’s vote are clearly far reaching. Matters referred to and emerging from the Commons Standards Committee should never be a matter for the Government; they should be the business of this House and this House only. The Government’s decision not just to meddle in an independent process, but then to whip Conservative Members to get what they wanted is one of the worst overreaches of Executive power that this House has seen in its history.

It is vital that there are clear and high standards that are upheld, particularly by those in positions of responsibility. For example, as a former police officer, I, and others across the House, have been engaged in recent weeks on the conduct of those within the police service. It is shameful that this Government will not apply the same standards of scrutiny to behaviours within their own party. We have seen an attempted U-turn by the Government this morning, but the fact that the Leader of the House is proposing a different review of processes, without the scope for debate, demonstrates even further the contempt with which this place is being treated. The Government want to silence us.

The remarks by the Leader of the House this morning mean that we do not yet know the full consequences of yesterday’s vote, but we do know that we have already seen a Government Minister on television this morning questioning the future of the current independent Commissioner for Standards. I am hugely concerned that the Leader of the House is leaving the door open for further attacks on this independent process.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) talked yesterday about a need for consensus, and there are areas where I agree with the Leader of the House. There must be standards that are fair and robust, and which are seen to be fair and robust, but the Government’s short-sighted intervention to protect a colleague, using a political process to overturn in two hours an independent investigation that took two years is the complete opposite of fair and robust. That is why this House must have a debate on the consequences of yesterday’s vote. The statement by the Leader of the House this morning left far more questions than answers. The system will only be fair and robust when this debate has taken place.

The hon. Member asks leave to propose a debate on the specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—namely, the matter of the consequences of the decision of the House of 3 November relating to standards. I have listened carefully to the application from the hon. Member and I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Member the leave of the House?

Application agreed to (not fewer than 40 Members standing in support.)

The hon. Member has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held on Monday 8 November, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the hon. Member’s application.

Can I just say, once again, that this has not been a good period for the House? It has been a very difficult time for all. I appeal to Members, whether they are Secretary of State or whoever: please—staff members of this House should not be named, as they do not have the right of reply or the ability to defend themselves. I am appalled that Sky News is more important. Please, rein in your thoughts and consider what you are doing to the individuals concerned. They also have to live through this, like the rest of us. Please consider your behaviour and start acting responsibly, in accordance with the position that you hold.