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Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): I speak with hesitation, as I am in hopeful anticipation that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) will aid my campaign in my constituency at the next general election. Nevertheless, does my hon. Friend believe that the right hon. Gentleman--who previously criticised wages councils for setting the minimum wage at £2.33--is a suitable candidate for a position in which he would be responsible for the employment and salaries of many low-paid people in the House?

Mr. Rammell: My hon. Friend makes that point very effectively, on one of the central concerns of Labour Members about the proposed appointment.

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rammell: I shall very briefly give way, but hope that, after it, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst himself will intervene.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House how many of those who work in the House and for all of us are subject to the minimum wage legislation?

Mr. Rammell: All staff in the House are subject to the minimum wage legislation. However, I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) was plucking out that specific example to show that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst has a

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discernible track record of opposing decent employment protection, which raises questions about his suitability to take on the post and responsibility.

All the facts that I and other hon. Members have provided militate in favour of a judgment that the right hon. Gentleman is unsuited to the position for which he is being proposed. One therefore has to ask why the Conservative Whips have proposed him for the position. I think that it is one of those old management, or Whip, judgments: it is better to have him on the inside with parts of his anatomy projecting outwards than the other way round. Although that might speak volumes for management style in the Conservative party, it should not influence our decision today.

The bottom line is that, in politics and government, it is a case of horses for courses. I am not quite sure what type of horse the right hon. Gentleman is, but I am absolutely certain that appointment to the House of Commons Commission is not, and should not be, his course.

I shall finish on a more serious note. When members of the public observe our proceedings in the Chamber, they are often concerned that we are still operating like a 19th century old gentlemen's club, rather than as a modern legislature that is trying to meet the needs and aspirations of people living in the 21st century. I am simply not sure that, with the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman, we shall be facing up to the needs and challenges of the 21st century.

Mr. Dismore: In the most recent report of the House of Commons Commission, in the section on the responsibilities of the Serjeant at Arms, it states that the number of visitors to the Gallery had increased by more than 188,000. Does my hon. Friend think that that is a very welcome trend? Does he also agree that the activities and behaviour in the Chamber of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst have probably had an entirely opposite effect on the trend, so that next year's report may well show a decline in visitors?

Mr. Rammell: That point is very powerfully made.

I am simply making the point that we need to be a modern and effective legislature. We need to manage our affairs in the House of Commons effectively. I am not convinced that the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman would move us in that direction.

11.29 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): We have had some fun tonight and there is no harm in that. For what it is worth, over the years I have found many of the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) infuriating. We disagree on many of the social issues that I find most important, such as divorce and abortion. His views on those subjects may well be closer to those of many Labour Members.

Labour has a large majority in the House. If Labour Members wish to vote down my right hon. Friend they certainly have the power to do so, but I wonder whether they want to send out the message that they are prepared to use their majority to vote down somebody simply because he is a member of the awkward squad, because

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he is a dedicated parliamentarian, because he does not do what the Whips tell him and because his views are not always those of the majority of Members of Parliament. Surely the Commission has to represent all points of view. Regardless of whether we agree with him, my right hon. Friend is entitled to his point of view.

11.31 pm

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough): I am glad to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). My reasons for opposing the appointment have nothing to do with the general political views of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). I do not regard this as an opportunity to take revenge for sleepless nights. I believe that the House has a responsibility to treat appointments to the Commission very seriously, as it has traditionally done. I echo the words of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) in paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Fareham (Sir P. Lloyd) for his contribution and the seriousness with which he has taken his role. The same is true of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie), whom we shall also have to replace shortly. I hope that the Labour Members responsible for nominating his successor will take into account some of the points that have been made during this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela Smith) referred to the very expressive face of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. Conservative Members have probably not noticed which issues have provoked the most expressive responses. Some of those issues are serious and relate to the responsibilities of the House of Commons Commission. The first issue to provoke a force 10 "God how ghastly" face was when someone referred to the Commission's responsibilities for child care in the House. One of the Government's most serious failures is that, although we have created new child care places throughout the country--

Mr. St. Aubyn: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is this speech still in order? Is it still about the qualifications of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is perfectly in order.

Fiona Mactaggart: We have created extra child care places throughout the country, but we have failed to do so for the children of employees in the House and in Whitehall.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): If the hon. Lady bothers to turn to page 9 of the report of the House of Commons Commission, she will see that the first report of the Administration Committee on child care facilities in the House concluded that 79 per cent. of respondents to a questionnaire were generally satisfied with the existing provision.

Fiona Mactaggart: The hon. Gentleman obviously takes an interest in these matters, so he will know that the existing provision is a voucher scheme. If someone who cared about and understood child care issues was a

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member of the Commission--and I advise the House to appoint such a person--the questionnaire would not have been put out in that form.

Mr. Wilshire: So the hon. Lady would design it to get the answer that she wanted, would she?

Fiona Mactaggart: I would have preferred a questionnaire that was a more accurate test of the opinions of the people who need child care provision.

Child care is the first issue that makes the right hon. Gentleman roll his eyes up to the heavens.

Ms Ward: Does my hon. Friend agree that because child care is such an important issue for Members of Parliament, we shall want the Commission to return to it at some point? It is clear that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) would have no intention of ensuring that it returned to the issue if he became a member.

Fiona Mactaggart: It is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's face not only that he would not want the Commission to return to the issue, but that he thought it stupid and irrelevant.

The second issue that made the right hon. Gentleman's eyes do the force-10 roll was when someone talked about consensus and the important role of the Commission in building consensus among right hon. and hon. Members about how the House is run. [Interruption.] He is doing it again, so I am clearly right in my analysis. It is important for us to work together, but not in a party political way.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): Perhaps my hon. Friend will be interested to know that in April 1998, along with the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)

Does that strike my hon. Friend as an example of consensus?

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