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Column 370company ; McCarthy and Stone Ltd., which deals in sheltered housing ; the Bristol Port Company ; the Illingworth Morris group, which is a wool textile group ; Hartley Investment Trust, a group investment company ; the Yorkshire Food Group, a food processing company ; and Pubmaster Ltd., which owns public houses.
The hon. Gentleman has other remunerated employment, too. He is a consultant to 3M (UK) Ltd., a manufacturer of industrial, consumer, commercial and health care products ; to Shepherd (Construction) Ltd., which is an industrial and commercial builder ; and to Gratte Brothers Ltd., electrical engineers. Clearly the hon. Gentleman is an extremely busy man, quite apart from anything else. The question even arises whether he will have time to fit in service on the Committee between his other engagements.
However, that is not the point of my amendment. I believe that the Committee must not confine itself to the alleged foolishness of the two hon. Members whose actions caused it to be set up, but should address the wider issue--the fact that Members of Parliament are sent here to serve their constituents, not to enrich themselves. If the Committee failed to deal with that question, it would undermine not only its own credibility, not only Parliament's credibility, but the credibility of the democratic process.
Many of our constituents feel strongly about those issues, which reflect on all of us. So many people want to believe the worst of Parliament, and we all have an interest in ensuring that they believe the best. I am most anxious that people should not be able to allege that the Committee has been stitched up because it is too deeply in hock to vested interests to tackle properly the questions that it should address.
The hon. Member for Shipley is not by any stretch of the imagination the only Member who is weighed down with directorships and consultancies. It is cynical of the Government to stuff the Committee with Members who so obviously have an interest in ensuring that nothing will change. They have badly misread public opinion, and misread the mood in the House of Commons, too.
It is no part of my argument to say that there are no Tory Members fit to serve on the Committee. There are plenty of Tory Members of proven integrity who have no directorships or consultancies, and who share the Opposition's concern about the credibility of the democratic process. I should like to see some of those people on the Committee, and I am puzzled as to why the Government have chosen not to add any of them. They should take the names on the Order Paper away and come back with others.
My amendment asks the Government to delete only one name and to find just one Tory Member who is completely free of vested interests and can be relied upon to uphold the integrity of the House and to tackle the wider issues that the Committee should address.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : I thank my hon. Friend for giving way on the issue of removing one hon. Member from the Committee. He will be aware that I tabled an amendment, which was not selected, which requested that three hon. Members be removed and be replaced by three women. The Government have now tried to correct that serious error and they have put a woman on the Committee. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that it is absolutely
Column 371disgraceful that the Government simply see men in grey suits with lots of consultancies, and the rest of the human race is totally ignored.
I repeat that I have nothing personal against the hon. Member for Shipley. I just want the Committee to command credibility not only with the House, but with the public. I want it to hold a proper inquiry which addresses an issue that has been a running sore for many of our constituents for many years. The fact that the situation has been allowed to continue for so many years does us no credit at all. I ask that the name of the hon. Member for Shipley be deleted from the list of Committee members.
Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford) : It may be appropriate for me to begin by declaring my own outside interests. I am on the advisory board of the Union Bank of Switzerland, I work for Bywater International and I work for British Gas and British Global Gas. There is one other confession that I should make to the House which is appropriate to this debate : on one occasion, I received £1,000 in the Palace of Westminster in circumstances that some of my constituents--I hope not many--might regard as reprehensible. I placed a wager with an Opposition Member on the result of the 1992 general election. He was unwise enough to bet on a Labour victory and I was able to pocket £1,000. I hope to show the House that this incident is relevant to the motion.
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : Opposition Members want complete openness ; that is the whole point of the manuscript amendment. Surely, therefore, it is incumbent on my right hon. Friend to name the Opposition Member who handed over £1,000 to him.
Mr. Garel-Jones : I shall come to that point in a moment. I mention the incident because, although it is true that some of our constituents would condemn gambling in any shape or form, the fact is that most of our fellow citizens indulge in an occasional flutter. The House--this is the point that I wish to make in reference to the members of the Committee-- would be vastly diminished if those of us who make up its membership did not reflect not only the hopes and ambitions of our constituents, but their whims and foibles. There is a footnote to the wager.
There is a footnote to the wager--and this answers the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). The Opposition Member concerned, who paid up promptly and honourably, asked me not to go public on the matter and that is why I do not propose to reveal his name. In fact I told a number of my close colleagues, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on the very eve of the election and I have told a number of friends in the
Column 372House about the incident since, always making it clear that it was not for public consumption. I am delighted to tell the House that it has never appeared in public print. I do not
I do not know why the Opposition Member concerned wants to keep the matter to himself. Perhaps it is partly for domestic reasons. If I had come home having lost a general election and £1,000, Mrs. Garel-Jones would have been exceedingly displeased with me. The hon. Member concerned may think that the puritan element of the Labour party--perhaps I should now call it the Christian socialist element--would find it distasteful that a member of the Labour party should be able to wager a considerable amount in that way. Whatever his reasons, I have thought it right to respect them.
I hope that the House and our constituents will think that neither of us comes out of this incident with any particular discredit. I also hope that punters across the country will wish that they had concluded, as I did and still do, that John Major is a good bet. I make one final point on the matter. The House should know that the £1,000 was invested in a very pretty frock for Mrs. Garel-Jones and I am sure that Opposition and Conservative Members would approve of that.
Mr. Salmond : There is no disgrace in losing money backing one's own party, but there is some disgrace in winning money by betting against one's party. The right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) said that he wanted the Committee to be composed of those who reflected the range of foibles of hon. Members. By the same logic, would the right hon. Gentleman advocate that a criminal trial should take place in front of a jury of convicts ?
Mr. Garel-Jones : I can answer both questions. I would advise the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), if he is placing bets, to bet on John Major and not on his own party. Curiously enough, the best bet at the general election, which I did not make, was 50 to one on the Tories getting more seats in Scotland, which as the hon. Gentleman will recall, they successfully did.
I remind the hon. Gentleman, with respect, that we are not talking here about a criminal trial. We are talking--I now come to the more serious part of my speech--about a very serious matter--the reputation and conduct of hon. Members and the reputation of the House itself. We are not talking about a criminal trial.
Ms Corston : I suspect that my hon. Friends and Conservative Members may consider that the right hon. Gentleman's comments are something of a smokescreen. He referred to a wager between himself and another hon. Member as a little flutter. Is he suggesting that having 18 consultancies or directorships, or accepting money for tabling questions is the same as a little flutter which is immediately honoured ?
Mr. Garel-Jones : I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Lady. I am coming to the main thrust of my speech. I was simply making the point--it is a fair point--that the House is not just a body of high-minded legislators, although I hope that it is that, too, but a group of men and women who, I hope and believe, broadly reflect not only the aspirations and hopes of the British people, but their whims and foibles. I hope that the House thinks that the illustration I have given is fair and that it does not reflect to the discredit of the Opposition Member concerned or myself.
In your statement to the House on 12 July, Madam Speaker, you indicated your thoughts to the House. The motion moved the following day by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown), which followed from that, has led to the nominations, with one amendment, in the motion today. The nominations have been made in the usual way by the two main parties, with one representative from the minority parties.
The task we are asking our colleagues to undertake is a difficult one. They have to examine not only the specific incident complained of, but what you, Madam Speaker, referred to as the conduct of the newspaper concerned, the wider aspect of our relationship with the press and the even wider topic of the lobbying of Parliament. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell- Savours)--I have considerable respect, even affection, for the hon. Gentleman--has told the House that he regards the nominations as a stitch- up, a phrase repeated just now by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). It is the view of the hon. Member for Workington that no hon. Member who has any outside interests at all--not even, to be fair to him, because he has made it clear, Labour Members sponsored by trade unions or those with other outside interests--should be allowed to serve on the Committee. I think that that broadly is his view. In fact, the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South are attempting to bring about a sort of reverse stitch-up of their own and, furthermore--I would contend--one that would irreparably damage the House and turn it into a refuge for unemployable people, third-rate people, one or two millionaires and a few perfectly admirable, if rather evangelical, campaigners.
Mr. Garel-Jones : I am sorry that hon. Members are treating this debate with such levity. There are evangelical campaigners on both sides of the House who make a significant contribution to the House, as does the hon. Member for Workington. However, I do not believe that the interests of the House or the country would be served if the House was made up of evangelical campaigners with a sprinkling of millionaires and a few unemployable people.
I very much hope that the House will support the motion on the Order Paper and brush aside the amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, which is an attempt to stack the Committee in a way which accords with his view, and that of the hon. Member for Workington and perhaps some other Labour Members present, of the world.
As to the Committee as nominated, I have every confidence in both the Labour and Tory Members named that, between them, they represent a proper cross-section of today's House of Commons. As I said, the task that we are
Column 374asking our colleagues to undertake, if the motion is carried, is a difficult one. The specific incident complained of is not one which reflects credit either on the hon. Members concerned or on the press and our relationship with them.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : The hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that our pay and allowances are inadequate to encourage people of quality to come here. If so, does he recall that we decide our own pay and allowances, and the two hon. Members who are the subject of this debate voted against the increase in our allowances two years ago, as did 50 other Tory Members who have substantial interests ? If we decide the levels of our pay and allowances, we should set them at an adequate level, and we would not need to prostitute our work and time here to bodies outside.
Madam Speaker : I hope that the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) will not be led down that road because as he realises, and as does the House, all that we are discussing tonight is the motion on the Order Paper, which is a group of names.
Mr. Garel-Jones : I most certainly did not come into the House because I was attracted by the pay or, indeed, the conditions. What I hope the nominated Members will not do is allow the hostile feelings that all of us sometimes feel towards the press to run away with them, and take measures against access to the press and so on which the House may, with hindsight, regret. I also hope that the Committee will not overreact to the foolish rather than wicked conduct of our colleagues. It will be for them, by their future conduct in the House, to regain and re-establish their reputations, and I am sure that that is what they will wish to do.
Finally, I hope that the Committee will not be over-prescriptive. We need new guidelines, but they should seek to strike a balance--I am sure that the names before us today will be the proper people to do this--between reinforcing the generally honest and open way in which hon. Members conduct themselves, and at the same time ensuring that the House continues to reflect the nation at large and to attract men and women who are capable of doing that. I hope that the House approves the motion, and I wish the Committee well in its deliberations.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : I enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). It is the sort of speech that one would have expected him to give in the circumstances.
There was an interesting editorial in The Sun this morning. It is not a newspaper that I normally read, but I thought that I might commence my modest contribution this evening by quoting it because in many ways it sums up the dilemma in this debate. I quote : "Fair's fair. Nine Tories are on the Committee investigating the questions for cash' affair.
Between them they hold 18 lucrative directorships and nine consultancies.
They will say that makes them eminently qualified to judge the issue.
We do not for one moment doubt their integrity .
But they must realise that many people fear a whitewash. If they are happy to investigate fellow MPs, we have a suggestion for them . . .
Why not let the"
Column 375"Sun decide the guilt of the"
In many ways, that sums up what the argument is all about. What I intend to do tonight is to put the case for those Tory Back Benchers who were not considered for the Committee, a number of whom are present in the Chamber. Over the past week, the House of Commons has made an ass of itself : all over the country, people are wondering why the Government allowed themselves to be drawn into this appalling mess and why they allowed Parliament to be discredited. People want to know--as, indeed, do I and many of my hon. Friends--why, out of something like 320 Tory Members, it was impossible to find nine good men or women free of commercial influences and capable and competent enough to sit on the Committee of Privileges.
I will read out to the House the names of all those hon. Members who, clearly, were not considered. They have no commercial interests and would have made fine Members of the Committee. The right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and the hon. Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates), for Croydon, Central (Sir P. Beresford), for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), for Lincoln (Sir K. Carlisle), for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Congdon), for Beverley (Mr. Cran), for Cheadle (Mr. Day), for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), for Monmouth (Mr. Evans), for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths), for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Hawksley), for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald), for Norfolk, North (Sir R. Howell), for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett- Bowman), for Milton Keynes, South-West (Mr. Legg), for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), for Wyre (Mr. Mans), for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant), for Waveney (Mr. Porter), for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), for Castle Point (Dr. Spink), for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson), for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), for Windsor and Maidenhead (Mr. Trend), for Colchester, South and Maldon (Mr. Whittingdale), for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) and for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) are all free of commercial interests ; all are able, I presume ; and all are good Tories. Why were they not considered ?
Among that list are four former Ministers, and as I look around I see that three of them are in the Chamber this evening. Why could not those hon. Members be put on the Committee ? Why did the Government load the Committee with Members who have commercial interests ?
Mr. Campbell-Savours : If they were considered, why were they rejected ? Is there something that we are not to be told--that they are not competent ? I see the hon. Member for Dartford, who is a former Education Minister ; I understand that he had six years in the Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Eltham had five years in the Conservative Government.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) would have been a keen supporter of my nomination. I did not want to be a member of the Committee : I wanted to give evidence--I want to influence events. I also believe that the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) should give evidence to the Committee ; he has a lot to say and a formidable case to make as he clearly believes in all the consultancies. He needs the money, so why was he not given the opportunity to give evidence to the Privileges Committee when he could put the case for perks ? As it is, he will be wrapped up, behind closed doors, in conditions of private deliberation by members of the Committee. Unless the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) is carried, the hon. Member for Shipley will be unable to speak freely on this matter, so that the public can hear what he has to say.
We heard what the hon. Member for Shipley had to say some years ago, in 1989, when the Select Committee on Members' Interests held an inquiry into lobbying. The hon. Members for Shipley and for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) gave evidence. What the hon. Member for Shipley said was extremely interesting. It might be useful to the House to be reminded of that evidence, because it reveals why many of us have a problem with the hon. Gentleman's membership of the Privileges Committee. We believe that he has a conflict of interest with the terms and remit of that Committee.
In 1989, the hon. Member for Shipley was asked by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) about the activities of his consulting company. The hon. and learned Member asked :
"Can I ask you a more specific question : you tell us that you have been to see a Minister once in recent times"
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Eltham remembers that meeting, as he was the Minister concerned
"did you go in your capacity as a Member of Parliament leading a delegation, or in your professional capacity as a director of the company ?"
The hon. Member for Shipley replied :
"I took the deputation as a director of Westminster Communications and they were a client. That was made quite clear to the Minister" the hon. Member for Eltham
"I took very little part, apart from introducing the people, who were far more knowledgable about the industry than I was. I certainly took no part in it in the role as a Member of Parliament." The hon. Member for Eltham seems to have forgotten that meeting, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Shipley will recall it. Mr. Bottomley rose
Mr. Bottomley : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member is making a number of references to me, among others, which are not all accurate. It would be a kindness if he could make the points that he wants to make without necessarily dragging in everyone else. To describe the meeting is fine, but to say what I did or did not know is not right. The hon. Gentleman would be doing the House a service if he got on with what he is trying to say.
At the 1989 inquiry, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East went on to ask the hon. Member for Shipley :
"Do you think it was easier for you to obtain that meeting because you were a Member of Parliament who happened to be a consultant as well ?"
The hon. Member for Shipley replied :
"Well, it would not be any hindrance".
That reply is what worries some of us. We are genuinely concerned that someone who feels that that is the way to conduct himself as a Member of the House of Commons--by running a public relations company, having access to Ministers and arranging meetings for clients--should serve on the Privileges Committee and work its procedures in defence of a principle that we find quite unacceptable. We reject that approach.
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) referred to eunuchs in the House of Commons. Many of my hon. Friends may not be pleased by what I am about to say, but I do not believe that hon. Members should not be directors of companies or consultants to companies if they so wish. It is their choice. If they want to do that, it is their choice and it is for their electors to decide whether they should be free to do so.
What I object to is the fact that, under the current rules, those hon. Members can use parliamentary proceedings to arrange the very meetings to which I have just referred, to table motions, to ask questions, to lobby civil servants and to lobby their colleagues. I object to them using all the privileges that the House offers to further the interests of their clients, customer companies and consultancies.
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : The hon. Gentleman has not referred yet to trade union sponsorship and membership of the Privileges Committee. Does he draw a distinction between trade union sponsorship and consultancies and directorships ?
Mr. Campbell-Savours : For the umpteenth time in the past week, I will explain what that sponsorship means. I am one of those creatures who are sponsored, but in those nine years of sponsorship I have never received one penny from the trade union. I do not receive money now from it and I will never receive money from it. There are no conditions in which the trade union would ever dream of offering me any money. If the hon. Gentleman can imprint it on his grey matter, that sponsorship means that there is a relationship between Unison and my constituency party whereby the trade union transfers a sum of money to the
Column 378constituency party, which is used to serve people and their complaints about employment, social security, housing, the Inland Revenue or whatever.
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : I am in no doubt about the hon. Gentleman's position, which he has made quite plain, but I am in some doubt about how he feels about those hon. Members who write articles for newspapers, appear on television and on radio and are well remunerated for it. Does he put them in the same category as those who are directors, as the former frequently peddle their form of prejudice and try to promote various causes ? Does the hon. Gentleman put them in the same category ?
Mr. Campbell-Savours : No. If the hon. Gentleman does, he shows a misunderstanding of the debate. It is interesting that last weekend I was denied an interview on the "Breakfast with Frost" programme because the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) told the programme makers that he would not appear on television with me. He was obviously scared stiff of being asked critical questions about what was on the transcript of his conversation, which in my view he has misrepresented to the House. That, too, is a matter for the Committee to deal with.
It is important to consider the remit that you set for the Privileges Committee, Madam Speaker, and how it can conduct its inquiry. In your statement to the House, you said :
"I should like to make it clear that the Committee will have power to inquire not only into the matter of the particular complaint, but into the facts surrounding and reasonably connected with it, and into the principles of the law and custom of privilege which are concerned. I hope that it will use that power for the assistance of the House in a difficult area."--[ Official Report , 12 July 1994 ; Vol. 246, c. 829.]
I believe that that was an excellent remit because it was wide and covers all the area of concern that many of my hon. Friends wish the inquiry to consider.
We know that the inquiry will cover the question of
entrapment--there are varying views about whether that took place--and the two hon. Members concerned, but I believe that there is another issue of far more importance that than specific matter. I do not believe that the hon. Members for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) and for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) are particularly relevant to the debate. We have moved on from them. They have been punished by their constituents and perhaps even by their local associations. Of course, the Committee will want to take a position on that, but the central issue now is what we do in future about the rule which gives Members the right to sell themselves to the highest bidder in a way
If the remit of the Committee is as I have described, its business is consultancy. I am arguing that many of the Members whose names are set out in the motion will be faced with a conflict of interest when it comes to an inquiry into consultancy. I remember the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests of 1990-91--it was the Committee's first report. In paragraph 24, to which I referred last week, we--that is : the Committee-- stated,
Column 379"when a member of a committee, particularly the Chairman, has a pecuniary interest which is directly affected by a particular inquiry or when he or she considers that a personal interest may reflect upon the work of the committee or its subsequent report, the Member should stand aside from the Committee proceedings relating to it." That was endorsed by the House late one night without a vote. So the House has approved that Members must stand aside from the Committee if a conflict of interest exists.
We have a remit to examine consultancies and we have Members who are consultants on the Committee. I put it to the Leader of the House that there is a direct conflict of interest and that there will be many occasions during the course of the inquiry when, if the rule embodied in paragraph 24 is to be followed, many Members will have to withdraw. I want to know whether they will do so.
We are told that it is custom and tradition for the Committee to meet in private. The members of the Committee will not deliberate publicly. What assurances can I have, on the basis that no one on the Committee can disclose what is happening behind closed doors, that whenever the issue of consultancy arises--it is an issue that the inquiry must address as it is one of the three pillars of its work--Members who face a conflict of interest will withdraw ? Who will carry out the policing ? Who will consider the issue at every stage ? Will the Clerk do so and advise the Chairman that the moment the conflict referred to in paragraph 24 arises, those Members who face it must withdraw ?
The relevant resolution suggests that, when the Committee deals with its report, Members who face a conflict of interest should stand aside. Are we to presume that when the Committee deals with the subject of consultancy-- this will be behind closed doors in a deliberative session--those Members who have consultancies and directorships will withdraw from the proceedings if those interests constitute a conflict of interest ? If not, they would be in breach of a resolution of the House, and that would be wrong.
We will not let the issue go away. We will persist in raising it. We will not know what is going on behind closed doors. We might ask the Leader of the House every week--he will be a member of the Committee--whether the rule embodied in paragraph 24 is being enforced. The minutes will be published. In 1981, when I brought a complaint about Mr. Ian MacGregor, the chairman of the British Steel Corporation, the minutes of the Committee were published. We shall study the Divisions that take place during the Committee's proceedings. There may well be Divisions. The Committee will be unlike previous Privileges Committees in some respects because its membership will include those who are not Privy Councillors. It might be more controversial in the way in which it works. The internal dynamics of the Committee might not be as consensual as on previous occasions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) always tells us that the Committee has a tendency to drive itself into the sand.
There are aspects of the Committee's work that cause us problems. I want to know, as do my right hon. and hon. Friends, whether Members will withdraw in the event of a conflict arising. That is critical. If the Leader of the House has found a curious way of justifying the membership of