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Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point. I allowed him some latitude, and it was when he had been going for seven minutes that I decided to be a little sterner with him. I am listening very attentively to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), and I hope that he will remember the terms of the motion; otherwise he, too, may find that I shall be somewhat interventionist.
I conclude by saying that how the political parties put people forward for Committees should be a legitimate concern of the Committee of Selection. While I support the motion, I hope that we will all consider those issues and take up the suggestion that I made some months ago to the Leader of the House that all political parties represented here in this Parliament should lodge in the Library of the House of Commons a memorandum stating the criteria that they use for putting Members forward for Select Committees.
Mr. Woolas: This has been a useful and largely consensual debate. [Interruption.] It has. I remind the House that the debate is taking place on the recommendation not of the Government but of the Select Committees concerned. The House will be grateful for the contributions of the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) and others. The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) explained why he could not be with us tonight. The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire, said that he has reservations but, on the whole, he welcomes the proposals.
The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) made remarks that he has made before. I appreciate his consistency but his statements may be characterised as
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anti-Whip. The hon. Gentleman does not like the idea that the usual channels influence the way that we do business. I have to say to himI know that he will disagree, as may others such as my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice)that our system in this Parliament depends on the usual channels. It is perfectly legitimate for Members to argue against that, but that is the system.
Mr. Tyler: I was not arguing that there is not a role for the usual channels. They have been referred to as the necessary sewers of the parliamentary system: unseen but nevertheless important. My point, which I hope the Deputy Leader of the House will come to, was that the report identified Select Committee membership as being inappropriate for nomination by the Whipsmembership of other Committees yes, but not Select Committees.
Mr. Woolas: The hon. Gentleman is consistent in his point of view, but I do not accept that one can describe the Whips as sewers; they provide the necessary lubrication of the parliamentary system. I will not go down that channel, but as an ex-Whip I take exception to the hon. Gentleman's description.
There are sensible reasons, which have been accepted by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for accepting the motion. Its motive and intention are to move towards what the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle want. It would bring appointment to some Committees into line with appointment of Select Committees generally, although it excludes some Committees that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) would like includedhis amendment would go further than the motion. It would, however, be churlish to disagree with the thrust of the proposal; indeed, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire has welcomed it as a step forward, although he expressed some reservations.
The hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) spoke about the representation of minority parties. That matter was raised recently during business questions. On that occasion, it was made clear that the Government are aware of and understand the concerns of the minority parties about their representation on departmental Select Committees and other Committees. Progress on addressing those concerns has been made in several ways, for example, by accommodating their interests in the nomination of recent Joint Committees for pre-legislative scrutiny and of Standing Committees on Bills and delegated legislation. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the minority parties have been treated unfairly by the Committee of Selection, but I believe that the Committee takes great pains to be fair to all parties. Its task is not a simple one and it is not possible to reflect the precise balance of the House on every Committeeas the hon. Gentleman accepted. Inevitably, there is debate and some competition about which parties should be represented.
The changes proposed by the Committeenot by the Governmentare sensible. It is not sensible to have a different method of selection for some Committees, although the Standards and Privileges Committee, whose Chairman, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire is present, offers an exception.
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Speaking on behalf not of the Government but of the House, let me say that it is important that we in Parliament have a systemthe usual channelsthat is a proper system and is seen to be so. Not only should Committees such as the Standards and Privileges Committee be seen to be appointed by the House with the consent of the House, but such matters should be subject to public scrutiny.
The motion sets out a sensible way forward. It is not as radical as some have suggested, and certainly not as radical as the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst suggests, and it would be churlish to oppose it. I believe that the change in practice that we have been debating is a modest and sensible one that is designed to streamline and rationalise the way in which we nominate Select Committees. I commend the motion to the House.
Question put, That the amendment be made:
The House divided: Ayes 23, Noes 128.
Main Question put:
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