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Mr. Hoon: I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will bear it in mind that we are considering a two Parliament rule. The eight year arrangement was added as a way of dealing with very short Parliaments, as happened in 1974. It may also help the hon. Gentleman if I emphasise that, for example, when someone becomes Chairman of a Select Committee in mid-term, that would not count in relation to the two Parliament rule. The rule would begin to apply at the start of a full Parliament. The Table Office would interpret the two Parliament rule as two full parliamentary terms. As that, not the eight year rule, is the primary rule, it would have greatest effect. The rule states clearly,
Chris Grayling: I accept the Leader of the House's point. He is right that, in the case of a couple of hung Parliaments in quick succession, it would be absurd for a Select Committee Chairman to be thrown out after a few months because of the two Parliament rule. However, circumstances will arise, probably in this Parliament, in which Select Committee Chairmen leave office under the eight year rule during the Parliament. If that happens, it is more natural for the period of office to terminate at the end of a Parliament rather than on a set date in the middle of the calendar. The Leader of the House shakes his head.
Mr. Hoon: I tried to explain carefully. We are considering a two Parliament rule. Someone who is appointed to the chairmanship of a Select Committee at the beginning of this Parliament, irrespective of the date on which they are electedthat is the harm that the amendment tries to resolvewill serve for this Parliament and the next. That is clear and straightforward. The Chairmen will serve for two full Parliaments. If, by chance, one of the Parliaments lasts less than four years, the eight year rule would allow them to continue, thereby satisfying the requirement of serving for a full Parliament and observing the primary rule.
Someone who was appointed a Select Committee Chairman in the middle of the 19972001 Parliament could continue serving now, yet the eight year period will expire at some point in the next
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couple of years. Is the Leader of the House saying that people in that position could continue for the full term of this Parliament or that their term of office must terminate mid-Parliament? My understanding is that the term of office will terminate after eight years if it spreads across three Parliaments.
Mr. Hoon: Again, the primary purpose of the rule is to limit the duration of office to two Parliaments. I have made it clear that if someone becomes a Select Committee Chairman mid-Parliament, the remaining period of that Parliament would not count against the hon. Member in relation to the two Parliament rule. The amendment is essentially trying to avoid circumstances that have arisen whereby specific Select Committees have not met and appointed their Chairmen, for example, until after the summer recess. Chairmen in that position would chair the Committee for that Parliament and the succeeding Parliament. I am trying to get the rule back to the original intention: to apply to the lifetime of a Parliament. I want to remove the unnecessary focus on the eight year period.
Mr. Hoon: No. I shall try one last time. I suspect that the Procedure Committee did not meet until October 1997. Consequently, the election to the Chair of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) was delayed, whereas the various other Committees had been in a position to appoint their Chairmen before the summer recess. That would nevertheless count as a single Parliament, irrespective of the eight year rule, for which the hon. Gentleman was entitled to serve as Chairman. The second Parliament would be that from 2001 to 2005. The two term rule would therefore have been satisfied.
Mr. Leigh: It is important to get that clear. The Leader of the House has made it clearhe can intervene again if I get it wrong. Someone who was appointed as a Select Committee Chair in 2001 would have served for the previous Parliament of four years. If this Parliament lasted five years, that Chairman would be allowed to remain in office until the end of the Parliament.
Andrew Mackinlay : Some of us who are on low pay are a bit bewildered. Perhaps the Front-Bench Members can explain it to us simple souls. My understanding is that if there were a casual vacancy soonsay next yeareither sadly through bereavement or promotion, the Chair's successor would serve for this Parliament and be eligible to serve for two more Parliaments, thus serving for 13 or 14 years. Am I correct?
Let me move on to the Modernisation Committee's new remit. I disagree with the Government's approach to the Modernisation Committee. That Committee should serve from time to time when there is a need for it to do so. If it meets week after week, it will look for things to do and tread on the toes of other Committees. We have already heard in the exchanges between the Leader of the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield about the remits of the Modernisation Committee and Procedure Committee running into each other. The Leader of the House spoke of broadening the Modernisation Committee's remit so that it could examine other issues, especially administration. However, we are in the process of setting up the Administration Committee. Surely that Committee, not the Modernisation Committee, should deal with administration matters. A Committee that meets week in, week out will look for work that may not necessarily exist.
I am in favour of Committees that consider changes that need to be made to the House's procedures and workings, but we do not need a Committee that simply looks for work to do every week. We have other Committees that can make the sort of small changes in procedure, standards and privileges and administration that are inevitably needed in this place. The danger of the Modernisation Committee being in the form that the Leader of the House suggests is that it will get in the way of the workings of other Committees unnecessarily.
I have some sympathy with amendment (a) to motion 34, which the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook) tabled, especially given that the Father of the House has rightly been added to the Liaison Committee. The Liaison Committee has gained a high profile because of its work interviewing the Prime Minister twice a year. It has other co-ordinating roles. The Chairmen's Panel has a different purpose from that of Select Committees, but I believe that the House's workings would be strengthened by a bridge between them. The presence on the Liaison Committee of a senior figure from the Chairmen's Panel would be beneficial. Hon. Members should consider the amendment carefully and sympathetically.
Sir Nicholas Winterton:
The Leader of the House suggested that the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) was on the Liaison Committee because he was the Father of the House, but I am not sure that that is the case. He is on it because of his merits and because of the role that he can play. May I remind the Leader of the House that the predecessor of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West was neither the Father of the House nor the Chairman of any Committee? He was appointed by the House because of his experience. While I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman is on the Liaison CommitteeI hope that he will soon become its Chairman againhe is not there because he is the Father of the House; he is there because the House wished him to serve on the Committee because of his experience and knowledge of the House. I very much support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) that a member of the
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Chairmen's Panel should serve on the Liaison Committee because of the experience and knowledge that they can bring to the work of that Committee.
Chris Grayling: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. His contribution speaks for itself. There would be significant benefits to that proposal and I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will address that point later and give careful consideration to the amendment.
There are mixed views in the House about the establishment of a new Administration Committee, but I believe that it is a logical and sensible step. There are a number of areas in which the work of the previous five Committees clearly integrate, including catering, accommodation, the provision of catering services in meeting rooms, broadcasting and information. If we are seeking to communicate what goes on in this place more effectively, and to learn some of the lessons highlighted by bodies such as the Puttnam commission on the ways in which we can improve people's knowledge and understanding of the workings of the House, it is important to remove the artificial divisions between broadcasting and information, and between some of the other functions of the previous five Committees. Those functions should logically come together. We need to take an integrated approach to running the House and the new Committee will play a valuable role in achieving that.
The proposal that the Chairmen of Standing Committees should be paid has come from the Senior Salaries Review Body. The structure of the proposal on the table today has been discussed by the SSRB, although it is not its original proposal, as the Leader of the House pointed out. It is, however, a proposal that the body has studied and to which it makes reference in its report. Having had conversations with the Leader of the House and with the Chairman of Ways and Means, I understand the reservations about the SSRB recommendation. I was initially taken with the concept of an A list of senior Chairmen and a B list of those in more junior positions. I understand the questions about the viability of such a proposal, but it remains my view that a fragmented, time-based system such as that set out in the motion would not be the right way forward.
Let us take the example of a distinguished, experienced Select Committee Chairman who stands down from that chairmanship at the end of the period specified in the rule that the Leader of the House has described. The former Chairman might return to the Back Benches without a role in the House, and then be invited by the Speaker to join the Chairmen's Panel. That would be precisely the kind of person whom we would want to provide a senior, experienced and respected lead in Committees, the kind of Member who people could look up to and accept in a Chairman's role. Is it really right that such a person should join the Chairmen's Panel on a year's probation, as a junior member? Should not they be brought in with the same status and stature, both in terms of the view of the House and of remuneration, that they would have enjoyed if they had carried on as a Select Committee Chairman?
It is illogical to try to attract to the Chairmen's Panel some of our senior people, perhaps a decent interval after they have left Government and returned to the
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Back Benches, or after they have given up a Select Committee chairmanship, if we are going to bring them in at the bottom of what is intentionally designed to be a career ladder. That is my big concern about the Government's proposals.
We also wonder whether it is right to introduce a system of increments for the first time. Such systems are common elsewhere, but we would, for the first time, be introducing the principle of more pay for longer service.
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