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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying too far from the motion.

Angela Smith: I can understand the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster), but I

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agree that that is not a matter for the House tonight when we are considering the qualities of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and the work of the Commission.

Mr. David Taylor: Does my hon. Friend agree that someone with a reputation for tedium, repetition and irrelevance would hardly be appropriate to represent the House in that important post on the Commission?

Angela Smith: I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if any Member were guilty of those things, you would rule him or her out of order immediately. Those of us who sat through the debate on the Representation of the People Bill found it enjoyable and interesting.

Mr. White: The motion talks about not only the appointment of a new member to the Commission but the discharge of a current member. Does my hon. Friend accept that we should consider the reasons for discharging that person, the qualities that he has brought to the post, and whether he should not continue to do the excellent job that he is already doing?

Angela Smith: If hon. Members seek to divide the House, they will be able to make their own decision about who should be appointed to the Commission.

We should be addressing two points tonight. One is the role and scope of the Commission, and the other is whether hon. Members feel that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst is the person whom they wish to represent their interests on the Commission.

Many hon. Members who have been involved in private Members' Bills have been impressed by the way in which, at every opportunity, the right hon. Gentleman, regardless of the time available and the merits of the legislation, has sought to examine such Bills in minute detail. I see the right hon. Gentleman nodding in agreement. It would be fair to say that some of us--perhaps not all--who have sat through many debates have been disappointed that legislation has been lost as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's interest in it. However, he has exercised his right to examine legislation in detail. I wonder if that is a quality that he wishes to bring to the Commission.

In reply to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire referred to Madam Speaker keeping the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst in order. If Madam Speaker is not available, any member of the Commission can take the Chair. Hon. Members will wish to consider whether the right hon. Gentleman would be an appropriate person to take the Chair in that way.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Does the hon. Lady believe that a Member who has been a highly successful and articulate Minister and is a member of Her Majesty's Privy Council is unsuitable to fulfil a position on the Commission of the House of Commons?

Angela Smith: I am rather surprised by that intervention. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst would argue, in his customary style, that all support for any matter should be examined in detail. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that a

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Member of the House's suitability for another role should not be scrutinised because he has been a Minister, I find that surprising. However, I have yet to make up my mind and shall have to listen to the rest of the debate.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Angela Smith: I want to finish this point--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but we must have calm in the House. The hon. Lady will decide whether to give way without assistance from anybody else.

Angela Smith: I am happy to give way.

Mr. Swayne: I want to assist the hon. Lady in making up her mind. She referred to the scrutiny exercised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, but said earlier--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but Labour Members should behave themselves.

Mr. Swayne: The hon. Lady is disappointed that that scrutiny has cost a number of Bills that she wanted to progress, but that is as nothing compared with the number of private Members' Bills that her own Government have killed off in this Parliament.

Angela Smith: Unfortunately, none of the Labour Members to whom the hon. Gentleman refers are here tonight. If they were, I should still want to have exactly the same debate because Members of the House have the right to discuss this appointment in detail. The merits of other Members are irrelevant; we are discussing whether we want the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst to represent us on the Commission. Forensic examination of legislation is one of his talents and it is right to consider that in the context of the Commission's role.

Ms Ward: Does my hon. Friend agree that the presence of so many Conservative Members shows that they, too, believe that this is an important matter for the House to debate? Indeed, were attendance to be used to judge the issue, it might be considered more important than the health service, the green belt--which we discussed this evening--and many other issues.

Angela Smith: I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution, but she is at fault in suggesting that every Conservative Member supports the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and every Labour Member opposes him. We shall have to wait to find out whether that is the case.

Mr. Salter: There has been much talk about effective scrutiny. I urge my hon. Friend, if she has not already had the opportunity, to read the parliamentary profile of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. She will find that the candidate before us was an apologist for the

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previous regime in South Africa and described the staff of a citizens advice bureau as a bunch of Trots. Is he suitable?

Angela Smith: Hon. Members will make up their own minds about that, but I return to the point that I have heard no complaint from the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst about the examination of his appointment. Given his reputation in the House, I am sure that he has none.

Time is short, so I move on to a couple of the Commission's functions on which hon. Members may want to reflect. Under the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, the Commission may from time to time "increase or reduce" the number of House Departments, "allocate functions" to any other House Department or amalgamate or abolish House Departments. We need to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman has any plans along those lines. A number of hon. Members are greatly concerned about that and would want assurances before proceeding with his appointment.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): I understand that oversight of the Library, which is very important to us, is a duty of the Commission. My hon. Friend will be aware that some hon. Members have been debating whether the Library should stock fiction. Has she examined the views of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) on that matter, in particular his knowledge of contemporary British fiction? Considering his lamentable record as an Education Minister, does she think he is a suitable person to oversee that Department?

Angela Smith: I have no knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman's reading habits, but I think the Conservatives might feel that one novelist in the party is quite enough.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): I think that the novelist referred to by the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) was expelled from the Conservative party today.

Angela Smith: I am grateful for the information, but I am sure that there are a number of other novelists. Sometimes, when we read Hansard, we could be forgiven for believing that some of it might come from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

Mr. Dismore: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Angela Smith: I will give way once more, but I want to make some progress.

Mr. Dismore: I note that one of the Commission's responsibilities is the Refreshment Department. My hon. Friend may know little about the reading habits of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, but does she know anything about his eating habits? I for one would like the Refreshment Department to branch out into more adventurous cuisine, but does my hon. Friend think that the right hon. Gentleman's strong views on Europe may result in a much more traditional approach?

Angela Smith: Whatever the membership of the Commission, I am sure that hon. Members will wish to submit their dietary requirements. Personally, I would ask for more vegetarian food.

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As we have heard, one of the Commission's principal roles is that of employer, and many of us are gravely concerned about the commitment of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst to employment legislation. I would want an assurance that he will support the minimum wage in future. A number of us are concerned about the terms and conditions of employment and the salaries of some of the staff of the House, and I hope that the Commission will address itself to that, whatever its membership.

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