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Mr. Tyler: I would have supported the right hon. Gentleman's amendment, because it is fair to consider the issue in the round. Some Members give great service to the House and do not get anything like the kudos or the plaudits attaching to Select Committee Chairs. However, as the right hon. Gentleman's amendment has not been selected, I will vote for the motion that stipulates that we should not pay more to Chairs of Select Committees.
On the controversial amendments, I believe that an illustrative list is helpful, as the Chairman of the Liaison Committee acknowledged. I hope that the Chairman of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), will not press his amendment to a vote.
On the amendments to add new Members to the Committee of Nomination, I have misgivings about the format of the arrangements. The additional newer members would be nominated not by the parties, but by their Chairs. That is a new form of patronage which the Modernisation Committee tried to avoid. I think that the suggestion is a little incestuous and I would have preferred to stick with the original proposal of the Modernisation Committee.
The exclusion of the Chairs of the Public Accounts Committee, the Environmental Audit Committee, the Human Rights Committee and, no doubt, others from the interrogation of the Prime Minister or, indeed, anyone else in such circumstances, would be illogical, so I oppose the amendment to motion 10, dealing with the Liaison Committee.
The proposals offer a one-off opportunity to give new strength to the Select Committee system. The Committees have been in place for a long time and ways in which they can improve their performance have evolved, especially with regard to their accountability to the House. What we have not done is to analyse carefully the best way to ensure that they are representative of the House. That is why we must take the opportunity for Back Benchers in particular, of all parties, to regain control.
There is, of course, an obligation within parties to ensure that a proper democratic procedure is followed for the nominations to the Committee of Nomination. There is also an obligation on those who think that the system is not working adequately to use the Committee of Nomination.
Mr. McCabe: If the essence of the Nomination Committee is that it must decide whether the right people have been nominated and make changes if it does not like the party choices, why is there any obligation on parties to ensure that the right people are chosen? The reality is that we are wresting power not only from the Whips but from Back Benchers, and giving it to a Committee of seven people who will decide for the rest of us.
Mr. Tyler: No, I am bound to say that I think that the hon. Gentleman has not read carefully how the procedure will work. I understand his concern, but this procedure will be conducted very much within the parties. I cannot speak for his party but I can speak for mine, and it is incredibly democraticsome of my colleagues think that it is far too democratic. If the nomination procedure does not fulfil all the expectations of individual members of my party in this House, there will soon be a revolution.
Mr. Tyler: No, not again. I accept that the procedure places a great obligation on the party and on the Committee of Nomination. As I pointed out in discussions on the proposals in the Modernisation Committee, the additions to Committees will be easy enough; it is the subtractions that will cause difficulty. We can all imagine circumstances in which the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) makes a wonderful case for being on a particular Committee, but when the Committee of Nomination is asked to remove somebody to make a space for him, that may cause some difficulty.
We can put the system on trial for this Parliament, and I believe that it will prove to be worthy of that test. It will fulfil Members' expectations far better than does the Committee of Selection from which we have suffered in the past. Obviously, an important responsibility will be placed on individual Members, on their parties, on the Committee of Nomination and indeed on the House, because as has been said several times, in the end the recommendations will return to the House, and I have not the slightest doubt, after the episode last summer, that if the House feels that a new oligarchy has taken over from the Whips which is equally under the thumb of the party managers, it will rebel. This is the best possible chance to break out of that stranglehold. As I confessed earlier, I am a former member not of the usual channels but of the unusual channels, and I am convinced that they cannot do this job properly.
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): I echo the tributes that have already been paid to the work of the Modernisation Committee and to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Today we have an opportunity to reinvigorate the Select Committee process and to re-establish its primacy in the role of non-partisan scrutiny of the Executive, which is fundamental in a free society and a democratic system. The Select Committees have performed that role with some weaknesses.
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is the essence of courtesy, so I am not surprised that he gives way. I recall that when I was a member of the Health Committee, there was an attempt to prevent the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) from chairing the Committee. In fact, he was an excellent Chairman. The result was that the Whips removed him from the Committee. If we are to have a Committee of Nomination to make the final decision, as against what I thought the House had decided last time round, how can such abuses be prevented?
Mr. Lloyd: I, too, recall the role played by the hon. Member for Macclesfield, although I do not want this to turn into his obituary. I must point out that it is necessary for Select Committees to have an independent voice and for Chairmen to command respect in the Committee.
My starting principle is that Committee membership is not something casually to be given away. It is important that the membership is of the highest possible quality. Members of Committees must be determined to fulfil the role of independent scrutiny of the Government of the day, without fear or favour, irrespective of their party. That is a difficult challenge for the Government. It was difficult for the previous Government, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) points out that at that time there were successful attempts to
We know that if Select Committees are to command respect, they must be seen to be independent. Whatever the role of the Whips and the perception of the use of Select Committee places for patronage in the past, the fact that such accusations can be made and believed more widely is a good reason to ensure that this Parliament can say that it is clear of that charge. That is why, in general terms, I endorse the Modernisation Committee's approach of having an independent Committee of Nomination, which will command respect in all parts of the House.
Last year, the House did itself no favours in the row about my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). Parliament got it right in the end when it insisted that they should be reinstated to their Committees. I concede to Opposition Members that Parliament worked in that case.
I strongly agree with the Modernisation Committee that the whole Chamber cannot be responsible for the process of nomination; there needs to be an intermediate process. On a point similar to that made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), the parliamentary Labour party now has a procedure that guarantees that the party as a whole, with all its influencesfrom time to time including, dare I say it, pressure from the Whips Officedecides on the names going forward on behalf of Labour Members. I trust that that will also apply to the Conservative party, although I am not certain. Perhaps Opposition Members will make that clear later.
It is important that there is a sense of independence. We accept that the Government have an in-built majority on Select Committees, but those members of the Committee must be seen to command the respect of their own parliamentary party. The process established by the parliamentary Labour party ensures that that is the case. However, we need a tiebreaker mechanismthe court of appeal that has been referred to. That court of appeal needs to be independent; the present system is not, and can no longer command respect. The Modernisation Committee has suggested a sensible step in the right direction. I am sure that Parliament could have come up with many variations on the proposals, and it could still do so if these do not work.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for considering the amendments in my name and that in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant). The criticism of the proposed Committee of Nomination is that it would seem to put power and control into the hands of the old lags, and there is a danger that they would view only those of a similar generation as suitable for inclusion in the Select Committee process. There is considerable merit in trying to recognise the contribution of hon. Members with fewer years on these Benches. Some people make contributions of enormous worth almost on entry into Parliament, while others take a little longer. There is no reason why the Committee of Nomination should not recognise the talent of recently elected Members.