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Mr. Ancram: He is still with us.

Mr. Galloway: He is still with us.

The hon. Member in question made the point that politicians are here today and gone tomorrow, so it is good to have a trade on which to fall back. As I explained to the right hon. Gentleman last night, I am a jobbing politician. None the less, I think it important that people keep their hand in, in some trades, because, if they do not, they will lose the ability to practise them if they ever have to return to them.

Hon. Members may laugh, and it has been an amusing little exchange, but the point is valid. In some jobs and professions, people are required to continue work. There might even be some benefit in people having some limited outside interests which they can bring to bear in Parliament--as long as nothing is hidden from the elector

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and as long as the elector is not, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, in any way cheated. I cannot see how electors would be cheated if total transparency were observed.

Mr. McLeish: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) that we need balance. We are talking about a very important matter. It is set in the context of Westminster, but it concerns a huge public interest issue. We are trying to achieve a balance in laying down important requirements for the Parliament to pursue, and at the same time leaving it to develop in its Standing Orders the very details that will govern Members' interests. That is the right balance to strike.

We do not depart at all from openness and transparency. We want a Parliament that works normally and effectively, but one in which MSPs by their actions can illustrate a new way of working which reflects the new politics about which we have often talked. Of course, we will not have a chance to implement the new politics until Members are elected on 6 May 1999, powers begin to be transferred from Westminster and we become actively involved. Nobody should infer from the debate anything other than the seriousness with which the Government view the matter.

I shall make a few comments about the background to clause 22 before responding to the Opposition amendments and talking about our amendment, No. 222. The Government are committed to ensuring that the highest possible standards apply to elected members at whatever level. In the case of the Scottish Parliament, the provisions in clause 22 are intended to ensure that certain essential elements of the regulation of Members' interests are set in place. That is essential so that the Scottish electorate can have confidence that its representatives are not being unduly swayed by external influences.

The provision will therefore ensure that the Parliament provides for a register of Members' interests, which will be published and available for public inspection. Any Member who has a financial interest in a matter, or another interest of a type specified in the Standing Orders, must declare that interest before taking part in the proceedings of the Parliament. The Standing Orders must also prohibit Members from advocating any matter on behalf of a person in return for payment or benefit in kind.

The clause goes on to create a criminal offence--

Mr. Dalyell: Are the Standing Orders to be subject to simple amendment procedures?

Mr. McLeish: As I said earlier, we are laying down important requirements in statute on the face of the Bill. It will then be up to the Parliament itself to look at its Standing Orders and develop further the position on Members' interests. That is a wholly reasonable position for us to adopt at this stage, as I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate.

Dr. Fox: Will the Minister tell us the definition of the word "person" as used on the face of the Bill?

Mr. McLeish: I shall deal with that specifically when I deal with the amendments.

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Clause 22 goes on to create a criminal offence where a Member is found to be guilty of contravening those Standing Orders.

The Bill establishes a framework that will be fleshed out in the Parliament's Standing Orders. That is an area that the Government--and, I am sure, the Parliament in due course--will want to keep under continuous review. It will wish to apply the best practice available, which will include taking account of the work in that area by the Nolan committee and the continuing activities of the Neill committee and the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege.

The argument for Government amendment No. 222 is similar to that for amendment No. 221, which has just been accepted by the House. It reinforces the powers available to the Parliament to deal with Members excluded under subsection (5).

Amendments Nos. 159 and 160 seek to insert a reference to "organisation or trade union" into the relevant parts of subsection (4). That is the part of the clause that would prohibit a Member of the Parliament from advocating or initiating, either himself or by urging another Member to do so, any matter in return for payment or benefit in kind.

I have to tell the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) that his amendments are unnecessary. Clause 22(4) mentions only "any person", but I am advised that, in accordance with the normal rules for interpreting statutes, "person" includes a body of persons, corporate or unincorporate. The provision would therefore cover paid advocacy on behalf of any organisation or trade union, so it is not necessary to add the suggested words to the Bill. I therefore invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Dr. Fox: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation, and also to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) for giving a balanced view of how registered interests ought to work in the Parliament. He is right to say that what we really require is transparency. I understand why the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has his own interest in trying to blacken the name of this Parliament, but I do not think that there is a huge problem here, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Amendment made: No. 222, in page 10, line 41, at end insert

'and for withdrawing his rights and privileges as a member for the period of his exclusion'.--[Mr. McLeish.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Dalyell: My question may be more appropriate to this debate than to the previous one. It is: is it appropriate that Standing Orders should contain provisions creating offences as provided for in subsection (6)? I remind the Committee that that subsection reads as follows:

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    I am advised by the Law Society that that is a matter of some substance.

Secondly, should the offence provisions apply to the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General, given that they will not be taking part in proceedings, or in advocating or initiating any cause or matter on behalf of any person in the Parliament? The ministerial advisers will know that that question, too, came from the Law Society.

Thirdly, will there be any corresponding requirement for the Advocate General for Scotland to be registered in the register of interests at Westminster?

One could ask the question--although it may be more appropriate on clause 82--what happens if there are two strong-willed lawyers in the position of Lord Advocate and Advocate General? Obviously, that could be a difficult relationship.

Mr. McLeish: In the context of the points made earlier about balance, yes, we are happy about the provisions in subsection (6) that place that requirement on the Parliament. It is in pursuance of subsections (1) to (3), and the point is appropriate.

It is right to remember that we must lay down those important requirements for the Parliament. I think that the Committee would regard that subsection as vital for the overall conduct of the Standing Orders. It will, of course, be for the Parliament itself to develop further details within the Standing Orders covering a wide variety of Members' activities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) referred to subsection (8). Again, we believe it highly appropriate that such measures should apply. The holders of the posts specified need not be external to the membership of the Parliament. As for the Advocate General's being on the Register in this House, I shall write to my hon. Friend on the subject.

Question put and agreed to. Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23

Power to call for witnesses and documents

7.45 pm

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex): I beg to move amendment No. 163, in page 11, line 8, after 'Parliament', insert 'by a two-thirds majority'.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments Nos. 223 and 224.

Amendment No. 43, in page 11, leave out lines 16 to 21.

Amendment No. 102, in page 11, leave out line 17.

Amendment No. 161, in page 11, leave out line 18.

Amendment No. 162, in page 11, line 21, at end insert--

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