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The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Before I move the motion, I mention for the benefit of right hon. and hon. Members that I have arranged for a book of condolence to be placed in the Library and if Members want to sign it, as I hope they will, it is now available.
(a) the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Mr Geoffrey Hoon, Mr Bob Ainsworth and Rosemary McKenna, other than those listed in paragraph (b) of this Order, not later than four and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order, and
(b) the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Mr Geoffrey Hoon and Mr Bob Ainsworth relating to standards and Privileges, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Committee on Standards and Privileges and Standards and Privileges (Nomination) not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first Motion; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for helpfully summarising my entire speech on the issue so, to save time, I do not intend to repeat it. It is important that we are able to debate the items set out in motions 4 to 40, followed by a separate debate on Standards and Privileges covering motions 41 to 44.
I do not have much to add to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, except that I am glad that the debate is not being artificially guillotined, as often happens, and that we can have a full debate about a wide range of directly linked issues. Let us get on with the main debate.
(1) There shall be a select committee, to be called the Administration Committee, to consider the services provided for and by the House and to make recommendations thereon to the House of Commons Commission or to the Speaker. Any such recommendation whose implementation would incur additional expenditure charged to the Estimate for House of Commons: Administration shall also be considered by the Finance and Services Committee.
(2) The committee shall make rules and give directions to Officers of the House in respect only of such administrative matters as may from time to time be determined by the Speaker or by the House of Commons Commission.
(5) The committee shall have power to appoint sub-committees and to refer to such sub-committees any of the matters referred to the committee and to delegate to such sub-committees any of the powers delegated to the committee under paragraph (2) above.
(6) Any such sub-committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to adjourn from place to place, to report from time to time the minutes of their proceedings, and shall have a quorum of three.
Mr. Hoon: We have before us in this afternoon's first debate 37 motions that relate to the reappointment of the Select Committees and related matters and to the payment of the Chairmen of Standing and Select Committees. In respect of several motions, explanatory memorandums have been made available in the Vote Office. I hope that they have been of assistance to hon. Members.
I shall start with the first proposal on the creation of an Administration Committee. The motion provides for the Domestic Committeesthe Accommodation and Works, Administration, Catering, Information and Broadcasting Committeesto be replaced by a new, single Administration Committee. I believe that to be a
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sensible modernising measure. There is a widespread view that the existing structure of the Domestic Committees has become outdated. Convergence in technology makes it no longer appropriate to have separate Broadcasting and Information Committees, for example. There have been occasions when an issue that cuts across more than one Committee has been delayed because the decisions taken by one Committee have had to wait until another Committee has met. A single Committee should allow a more efficient approach, thus ensuring better Member oversight of the services provided throughout the House.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): Before the Leader of the House gets too far into the detail of all these motions, will he address an item of principle? It is the role of the House to create departmental Select Committees, whose role is to hold the Government to account. Does he not feel that it is bordering on the politically corrupt for the Government to have such an important influence on selecting the members of those departmental Select Committees? Will he therefore take the chance, after today's debate, to look again at involving Members on both sides of the House in considering whether we could have a better system, perhaps one that involves the election of the members of departmental Select Committees by their colleagues in the House, rather than one that persists in allowing the very organisation that is meant to be scrutinised to have the right to put Members on to the departmental Select Committees of the House?
Mr. Hoon: I disagree with my hon. Friend, not least because the great strength of our Select Committee system is that it reflects the great strength of our political party system both in the House and in the country. It is a matter for the political parties represented in the House to determine the appropriate allocation of Members to the Select Committees. I do not know whether he was present at the most recent meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, where it was made clear that an inordinate amount of time had been spent on transparently and fairly selecting the Labour party's representation. I obviously cannot speak for other political parties in the House, but his own political party went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that the nominations were in accordance with the principles of the Labour party. In those circumstances, I do not believe that he can complain that proper democratic procedures have not been adopted. Those are the proper democratic procedures of his and my political party.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): May I perhaps come partly to the aid of the Leader of the House? He will be aware that the Modernisation Committee, which I have no doubt he will be chairing shortly, has considered this matter. Although its recommendations were very narrowly defeated in the House, I am confident that the matter will come before the Modernisation Committee again, and I hope that he is happy that it should do so, so that the House can consider the important matter raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen).
I am always grateful for all the help that I can get, particularly from such a distinguished source,
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but it is important that the will of the political parties is reflected in the way in which Select Committees are appointed. I believe that that is carried out with very commendable concern for democracy and the principles of democracy that inform the House.
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