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Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West): Is the hon. Lady seriously suggesting that a prerequisite for appointment to the Commission is that one voted for the national minimum wage, and that anyone who voted against it should be excluded? Such a prerequisite would exclude most of the Conservative party. That may be the intention of the hon. Lady and others who have spoken, but it is not the way in which the Commission functions.

Angela Smith: The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. I do not suggest that every member of the Commission would have to have voted for the national minimum wage, but once something is the law of the land I expect all hon. Members to uphold it. I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that Members should work against the law of the land and try to break it. Indeed, it is a criminal offence not to abide by the legislation on the minimum wage.

Perhaps my greatest worry relates to paragraph 6(2) to schedule 1 of the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978, which states:

I feel that hon. Members have cause for concern, given the attitude of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst to the procedures of the House, and his boast that he is determined to block legislation that is not given adequate scrutiny. Members of the Commission may want to reflect on how long they want their meetings to last. I would also want some assurances in regard to employment law. I should like to know that the right hon. Gentleman wished to meet representatives of the trade union movement representing the staff of the House to discuss matters.

The right hon. Gentleman's commitment to forensic examination of legislation does him credit. I am sure that he will agree that tonight's examination of appointments to the Commission is also important.

I want the regulations of the House to be fully upheld. In 1998, the right hon. Gentleman said:

I hope that he would not think that he was against regulations in the House, because that is one of the functions for which we exist. It is important that we have regulations to govern the way in which we work. Members should reflect carefully on the matters that are before them.

11.15 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): It will come as a surprise to some right hon. and hon. Members and a disappointment to others, but as a great relief to you,

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Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I say that I have not the slightest intention of detaining the House for more than a few moments.

These motions are usually not debated but, as it has been decided that this motion will be discussed, we should ensure that the entire motion is discussed. Whatever we may want to say or not say about the Member who is being proposed, we should not let the debate go by--[Interruption.] I am coming to what I want to say about my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). If the House is prepared to be serious, we should consider my right hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd), who has served the House and who has decided to relinquish his place on the Commission. It would be a pity if, during the debate, it was not made clear that it was our unanimous view that we should say thank you to my right hon. Friend.

I agree with some of the remarks of Labour Members. They have rightly said that to serve on the Commission is an onerous task. That being so, I am extremely grateful that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst is willing to take on the task and look after my interests. I wish him well.

11.17 pm

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): I shall make a short contribution to the debate.

I sometimes chide some of my local government colleagues about the size of their interview panels. After this evening's experience, I shall be on exceedingly dodgy ground if I continue with that approach. I welcome the debate. Sometimes these appointments go by omission and without discussion. Given the importance of the role and function of the Commission and the qualities of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), appropriate or otherwise in terms of the appointment, it is important that we discuss the matter. I hope that our discussion will be welcomed by the right hon. Gentleman.

My experience in the House since 1 May 1997 is that whenever, for example, a money resolution is before the House for debate, more often than not it is the right hon. Gentleman who intervenes to demand that it should not be moved formally and should be debated in detail. He goes further than that and demands that those who are putting forward the proposition should justify and defend it. I hope that, before this short debate ends, he will seek to justify and support his appointment.

Mr. David Taylor: Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a risk, if he pursues the line that he is apparently intent on in laying compliments on the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, that there may not be sufficient in the House accommodation budget to widen the doors of the Chamber to enable the right hon. Gentleman and his ego to leave it at the end of the debate?

Mr. Rammell: I shall temper my remarks as I proceed.

We are discussing a hugely significant role. When the role and function of the Commission were discussed in the context of the Braithwaite report, an intervention by the right hon. Gentleman elicited the response that the Commission is responsible for spending nearly £3 million of taxpayers' money per year. We are talking not about a minor functionary but about one of six

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Members who have significant responsibilities. It is a huge job. All of us recognise that we need improvements in the running and functioning of the House of Commons. It is within that context that we should judge the qualities, or otherwise, of the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members whom we put forward to serve on the Commission should recognise the need for change within the management of the House of Commons and show an interest in managing the House's affairs better.

I have nothing against the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I am sure that he has many fine qualities, which, unfortunately, I do not have time to go into.

Mr. John Cryer: Is my hon. Friend aware that, in a debate on procedure, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said on time limiting Back Bench speeches:

In view of what happened last Tuesday evening, does my hon. Friend think that consistency of argument is one of the right hon. Gentleman's strong points?

Mr. Rammell: That is a valid point. I welcome within the House and, indeed, within the management of the House, constructive and engaged opposition, but to do the job effectively, hon. Members need tolerance and self-restraint. That is one of the qualities that is often lacking in the contributions of the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): In the context of the debate last Tuesday, I wonder whether it is not a particularly unfortunate time to discuss the matter. Members will remember that the Leader of the Opposition and his Whips lost control of their party, desperately pleaded to the Prime Minister for help--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That has nothing to do with the motion.

Mr. Rammell: I am happy to take your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

As I have said, I have nothing against the right hon. Gentleman. However, I am sure that not even his closest friends, or members of his family, would say that he recognises the need for change in the management of the House of Commons and the fact that things need to function more effectively. After all, he is the candidate for the status quo. During the debate on 20 January, he said that he was depressed that the Braithwaite report had said that

Given the need for change in this place, I hardly think that we should put forward someone who is in favour of the status quo: of things continuing as they always have. That has been a consistent feature of the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary career.

We need people who understand the functioning of the House of Commons Commission. By his own admission, the right hon. Gentleman does not possess that experience. Perhaps in the 13 days since he made that statement, he

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has undertaken a lot of homework. It is true that, occasionally, we need novices and people who bring new ideas and new experiences, but, for something as significant as the functioning of the House of Commons, it would be dangerous to put forward someone who, by his own admission, does not have that level of understanding and experience

There is inconsistency in the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. We have heard that, in that debate, he called for elections, manifestos and hustings, so that people could put forward their views about the changes that were necessary in the House of Commons, yet, only 13 days later, the intention was to move the motion deep in the night, wholly unremarked, with his appointment, which is based on patronage, slipped through. That inconsistency needs to be challenged.

Conservative Members have argued for minority representation. In that long night last Tuesday, or Wednesday, the largest number of Opposition Members I remember voting was 16 or 17. Larger minority groupings than that on the Opposition Benches are worthy of representation.

Other hon. Members have already very effectively made the point on the role played by Commissioners in complying with employment legislation. Although I do not think that anyone would argue that one should have to have voted for the minimum wage to sit on the Commission, in every debate in which I have heard the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst speak, he has consistently opposed regulation and good employment practice. I am simply not convinced that those are the qualities that we should be looking for when appointing an hon. Member to the Commission.

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