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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): I believe that my hon. Friend said not that he had taken a holiday, but that he had been paid for accrued holiday that he had earned in the time leading up to the general election. That is rather different, is it not?
Mr. Robathan: He did say that, but I do not think that he was employed long enough to be given such a holiday. The hon. Gentleman, of course, takes an interest in the issue because he too is a Leicestershire Member.
I will not drag out my quotations from the Committee's report, but Mrs. Filkin considered the argument spurious, and did not accept it at all. That is the point.
The hon. Member for Leicester, East said that he had been cleared of various complaints. In fact, hon. Members should read the report. It says that inquiries were incomplete on several issues. That is different from complaints not being upheld or indeed being cleared. [Interruption.] It is in the report. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), who is a member of the Select Committee, will read it.
This is part of a pattern since 1987. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington said that the hon. Member for Leicester, East was the baby of the group that was elected in 1987. He should perhaps have received better advice from his party Whips and party organisation. I do not believe him to be an evil person in any way. He could have been helped rather better here, but the problem is that it is part of a Labour party pattern.
I come now to the Labour party national executive committee inquiry and the Adjournment debate of 25 April 1995, to which Elizabeth Filkin referred, on local government in Leicestershire. In that debate, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) said:
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I point out that that forms no
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): The hon. Gentleman must leave these matters to the occupant of the Chair but I understand the point that he makes and I say to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that we are discussing the report and he should direct his remarks to that.
Mr. Robathan: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I most certainly will. The point is that that matter was referred to by Elizabeth Filkin and by the hon. Member for Watford (Ms Ward), who is in her place, in evidence to Elizabeth Filkin in the report last year.
I should like to take up the district auditor's report, which deals with the same matter that was raised in that Adjournment debate. It said:
Elizabeth Filkin, in her report, dealing with the evidence of the hon. Member for Watford, to whom I spoke before she came into the Chamber, states:
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is again straying rather wide of the report. He should direct his remarks specifically to the report before the House.
Mr. Robathan: Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hear what you say and I shall not in any way transgress, except to say that I would like the NEC report to be published because it is relevant to what Mrs. Filkin was saying. [Interruption.] Since I am being so barracked, I will not go any further, but I hope
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): Has the hon. Gentleman actually read the report, in which Ms Filkin says in fact that she paid no attention to the Labour party inquiry?
Mr. Robathan: I have indeed read the report. Mrs. Filkin paid no attention to that because it was not within her remit, but as the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) said, it is within the remit of the Leader of the House. When he was Foreign Secretary, he said about the hon. Member for Leicester, East:
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): These are always melancholy occasions for the House and it gives no one any pleasure to deal with them. However, we must deal with them, as they are the key element in the self-regulatory mechanism that the House has set up to deal with such matters.
I want to thank the Chairman of the Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), and all the members of the Committee for performing a difficult and melancholy task assiduously for a long period. I must also thank the commissioner for the way in which she has dealt with the matter, lengthy and complex though it has been.
I want to add my words to those of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler). It is now time that the Government looked at the connection that should exist between our code of conduct, with which we are dealing, and the code that covers ministerial conduct. I do not want to press the point, but I hope that this occasion will give added impetus to the increasingly obvious necessity for that matter to be considered.
I hope that the House will support, with sadness, the recommendations made by the Committee in the hope that such support will represent yet another move towards right hon. and hon. Members understanding our obligations so that, in a sense, we can render the work of the Committee redundant.
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): I add to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) by expressing the Government's thanks to the Chairman and all members of the Standards and Privileges Committee. We also appreciate the diligence with which the commissioner has pursued this case. The work that she put into it is fully recorded in the 150 pages of text that the House is considering.
No Member with a balanced opinion can come to such a debate without a sense of regret about the matter before us. Nor should we come to it without a recognition of the necessity of acting on such a report. That is why the Government have acted quickly to bring it before the House at the earliest opportunity. That is right, and, according to tradition, we shall accept the Committee's recommendations and we expect that the House will do the same.
I listened with care to the comments of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), which were echoed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. I shall reflect on those points. They would both expect me to consider their remarks calmly and with the text in front of me. Whatever might be the narrow interpretation of the text, there can be no question of the Government not taking fully into account and acting on such a report, which resulted in a Member being suspended from the House. That suspension plainly has a severe implication for whether such a Member, if he were a Minister, could continue as a Minister, whatever the text might say. We can consider whether there should be an explicit read-across between the two texts.
With those few words and as the House will soon be ready to come to a decision, I commend the report. We shall certainly accept all its recommendations, and reflect on what it may mean for the future in terms of the ministerial code.
(i) approves the Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges (House of Commons Paper No. 605-I); and
(ii) accordingly suspends Mr. Keith Vaz, Member for Leicester East from the service of the House for one month.