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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With permission, I shall put together the motions relating to delegated legislation.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Overseas Development and Co-operation

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    Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

    That the draft Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Further Subscription to Capital Stock) Order 1999, which was laid before this House on 10th January, be approved.

    Ecclesiastical Law

    That the draft Grants to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2000, which was laid before this House on 18th January, be approved.

    Cinemas and Films

    That the draft Films (Modification of the Definition of "British Film") Order 2000, which was laid before this House on 18th January, be approved.--[Mr. Jamieson.]

Question agreed to.

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House of Commons Commission

Motion made, and Question proposed,

10.13 pm

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): I should like to remind the House of the words of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), spoken in the Chamber on 20 January this year. During the debate on the Braithwaite report he openly and honestly described his lack of understanding of the House of Commons Commission. He also described his views on how members should be appointed to it. His desires have clearly not been met, because he has been nominated through the usual channels. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. There is far too much background noise. The House must come to order. I also remind hon. Members that the terms of the motion are very narrow indeed.

Mr. Miller: The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst expressed concern about the process of appointment and proposed that a different process should be implemented. Clearly, it would be entirely wrong of me to speculate on what that process should be, as that would be outside the terms of the motion. However, if one looks at the duties that are undertaken by the House of Commons Commission as set out in the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, it is clear that it has some extremely important and rigorous functions. It is quite proper that the House should consider his suitability for the position by way of a formal interview.

It has been alleged in recent debates that the right hon. Gentleman was flying his own kite and acting out of control of his party Whips, but the prima facie evidence before the interview committee tonight is that that is not the case. Clearly, he would not have been nominated through the usual channels had he been acting outside the control of the Whips. So all the stories that we were told during that ridiculous all-nighter last week that the Whips were not in control of the situation must have been untrue.

I return to the functions of the House of Commons Commission. It is responsible for important functions in the House, not only in providing important services to hon. Members and the staff, but in ensuring that we are open and accountable to citizens.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Those of us who know my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) know full well that he is a vigorous defender of the rights of the House. That being so, will the hon. Gentleman tell us why he is not fit to be on the House of Commons Commission?

Mr. Miller: With the greatest of respect, I have not suggested that. I am just reminding the House that we are making an appointment to an extremely important body.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) indicated assent.

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Mr. Miller: The right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that. Yet on 20 January 2000 he said:

As he acknowledged, he clearly does not understand and has not read the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978.

Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale): Will my hon. Friend also consider that, as there are so few appointments to this august body that adjudicates over so many important issues for us Back Benchers, its members must be representative of a large majority of hon. Members--and that can hardly be said of the individual whom we are discussing this evening?

Mr. Miller: I very much agree with the first point made by my hon. Friend--that the person should be representative of a wide range of Members. However, her second point will be tested by the interview process in which we are engaged. Given that the Commission--[Interruption.]

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Miller: Of course.

Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I am a trifle perplexed by his use of the word "interview". In reference to these proceedings, is it customary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for someone conducting an interview to do so by making a lengthy and rather tedious speech? [Laughter.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. [Interruption.] I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are not conducting an interview.

Mr. Miller: Clearly, I must have been in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or you would have rapidly stopped me. Perhaps the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) has had a word with my Whips, who from time to time accuse me of being long-winded, boring and tedious.

Hon. Members: Never.

Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands): In case my hon. Friend was about to become tedious, he might care to reflect on the fact that there are about four times as many Opposition Members in the Chamber for this debate as there were for the previous one.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) has been in good order, but if he responds to that intervention he will be out of order.

Mr. Miller: I take your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As for being long-winded and tedious, I must point out that this is the largest audience to which I have ever spoken in the House.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Miller: I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Ms Ward).

Ms Claire Ward (Watford): Does my hon. Friend agree that Members of the House who want to represent

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Back Benchers on such an important Committee should have taken part in a considerable amount of debate, and should have ensured that they knew much about the subjects on which they will represent Back Benchers? That would include ensuring that they knew what the Commission exists to do.

Mr. Miller: That is precisely why I am making my speech. On his own admission, the right hon. Gentleman does not know what the task of the Commission is. There are plenty of Opposition Members who know precisely what it is, because they have read in detail the reports made by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), who speaks for the Commission. They have participated in debates such as the one that we held on the Braithwaite report on 20 January.

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. We are dealing with an important issue--

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Miller: I want to finish my point.

We are discussing an important body, which deals not only with services to Members and with members of the House's staff, but with the public outside. People outside the House look on the quaint ways in which it works with some disdain. Indeed, it has sometimes been suggested that the practices engaged in by the right hon. Gentleman lead the public to have a certain disregard for the House.

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