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Mr. Bercow: What are these pigs that I see flying?

Dawn Primarolo: I could not possibly comment.

The Joint Committee is expected to have 13 members. Six will be from another place and seven from this place. The Procedure Committees of both Houses have recommended that the Chairman be drawn from this place.

To return to the point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham, the procedure which was set up under Standing Order and introduced by the Conservative Government prior to the 1997 election provided that the House should have the majority--seven members--on the Committee and that the Chairman should be drawn from one of those seven members. That recognises that the Bills

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concern tax and would not normally be matters for another place, while bringing to bear the expertise of Members of the other place in the process of consideration. In the previous Parliament, the Procedure Committee stated:

The division of seven members from this place and six from another place reflects that desire.

Given that it is somewhat unusual to engage the expertise of Members of another place in the debate on tax measures, the proposal is that House of Commons procedures shall be followed where they differ from those in the other place. That is most significant in the role of the Chairman in voting. In the other place, the Chairman votes like any other member and has no casting vote in the event of a tie. In this place, the Chairman does not have a vote unless a tie occurs, when he or she has a casting vote.

Secondly, the Committee will have powers to take evidence, as I have said, from anyone it wishes and to appoint specialist advisers if it judges that helpful to supplement the lengthy consultation already undertaken by the rewrite project.

Thirdly, there were some questions about the Committee's ability to change the underlying tax law. I hope that the motion will make it clearer that the Committee's remit is to consider tax simplification Bills, not to review and revise underlying tax policy. That is consistent with the recommendations made to the House when the tax law rewrite project was set up and with the Procedure Committee's reports to the House.

The motion is simply about taking forward Bills which rewrite existing legislation, with some minor changes only. That is a matter on which I am pleased to find that there has so far been a great deal of agreement. The work undertaken by Lord Howe of Aberavon and his enthusiasm, along with all the other members of the tax law rewrite body, of which the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) is one, has demonstrated both the commitment of the previous Government and of the present Government to take this important work forward.

The motion puts in place the machinery for delivering the first rewrite Bill after a great deal of effort over several years. I hope that the House will accept the procedures.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I support the proposal, but has no thought been given to making the quorum of the Committee not merely two, as proposed? Should not the higher proportion that is required in the House constitute the quorum?

Mr. Bercow: There is an amendment on that.

Mr. Mackinlay: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that sedentary interjection.

I served on the Joint Committee that is designed to reject defunct or obsolete Acts on the statute book. I felt vulnerable when I attended. It was almost as if I were trespassing on House of Lords proceedings, as it were. I was somewhat alone on that occasion, and I believe that it is unhealthy for the House not to ensure that the

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deliberations of the Joint Committee are a mutual undertaking, rather than one that is not pursued with any great vigour by some hon. Members.

Dawn Primarolo: I understand my hon. Friend's point. All these matters were considered by the Procedure Committees of both Houses. The Select Committee has only seven members from this House, and it would be extraordinary for the quorum to include more than half of those members--hence, the number two as the proposed quorum.

The Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills has 12 members and a quorum of two, as does the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, where the number of members is not fixed by Standing Order, but is, I understand, currently seven.

The new procedure that has been agreed is laid down by Standing Order No. 60. As the process of tax law rewrite is taken through the House for the first time, it will be necessary to reconsider the procedure.

Mr. Bercow: The hon. Lady has been exceptionally generous, which I much appreciate. Nevertheless, I am a little concerned by the progressively byzantine arrangement that she has set out before the House. She said a moment ago, if I understood her correctly, that the Chairman of the Joint Committee would have to come from this House. Is that because of something in Sessional or Standing Orders, or is it merely by way of a gentlemen's or ladies' agreement?

Furthermore, with reference to paragraph (2) of the motion, does the hon. Lady understand that many of us are rather perturbed by the idea that the Committee might conduct its secretive work when the House is adjourned? That seems to be a recipe for trouble.

Dawn Primarolo: First, I assure that hon. Gentleman that nothing in the deliberations on the tax law rewrite Bills will be concealed from the House. There must be a report back to the House, and it will be for the House to decide. Secondly, I remind him that the Government are in a minority on the Committee--a somewhat unusual position for the Government to be in on Committees.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dawn Primarolo: If I may answer one question at a time, I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in due course.

There is no chance that, without a majority, the Government could railroad anything through the Committee, nor would we want to. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) scoffs. If he studied the subject, he would find that from its inception under the previous Government, the proposal had received widespread support in the House and huge support among all the professions, and that it has been the subject of extensive consultation. The procedure to review it and consider Bills in the House has now been properly arranged.

On the question of the Chair of the Committee, it would be improper for me to express any view. It will be for the Committee to elect its Chair.

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I give way to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), even though I have concluded my remarks.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I thank the Minister for giving way. She said that Government members on the Committee would be in a minority. As four out of seven members listed on the Order Paper are from the Government side, it follows that she knows who the other six from the Lords are. If she does, will she please tell the House, and if she does not, can she tell the House when they will be appointed or when their lordships will deliberate on the matter? With regard to the quorum, does the quorum of two bind only Members of this House, or does it bind the entire Committee, including Members of the other House?

Dawn Primarolo: The House of Lords returns from its break today, and it will appoint its members of the Committee. If we are notified during our debates that those appointments have been confirmed by the other place, I shall be happy to tell the hon. Gentleman. It is for the other place to determine who its six members will be.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I do not want to get at the Minister, but her statement that Government Members will be in a minority on the Committee cannot be correct, because she does not know what its total membership will be.

Dawn Primarolo: I thought that the hon. Gentleman was asking who the members from the other place will be. The breakdown of those six members will be two Labour, two Conservative, one Cross Bencher and one Liberal Democrat. It is not for me to determine which peers will be members: that is a matter for the House of Lords. The Joint Committee will follow the procedure and rules of Select Committees of this House.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): Is it the Government's intention that they will be in a minority for the duration of the Committee?

Dawn Primarolo: I am not entirely sure what the hon. Gentleman is asking. The procedure is laid down in Standing Order No. 60. The requirement is for the seven members of the Committee to reflect the balance in this House, but when the six members from the other place have been added the Government will be in a minority--not a majority.

The hon. Gentleman is concerned about the quorum. A quorum of two is what Lords Committees use. The procedure was set out in proposals from the Committee in the Lords on 13 November 2000. The quorum, the procedure, and the fact that the Select Committee procedure for the Commons will be followed because tax questions are involved have now all been agreed by both Houses.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I should make it clear to the House that Mr. Speaker has not been able to accept any of the amendments.

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5.17 pm

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