Previous SectionIndexHome Page


The Leader of the House was asked—

Select Committees

30. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): If he will bring forward proposals to appoint a representative of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons to the Liaison Committee. [36657]

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Nigel Griffiths): The House decided on 13 July that the Liaison Committee should comprise members who chair the Select Committees established in our permanent Standing Orders. We do not propose to revisit that matter so soon after that decision was taken.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: The Modernisation Committee of the House of Commons has existed and operated in this House for eight years. Although it is
13 Dec 2005 : Column 1231
appointed only until the end of the present Parliament, it has become a permanent fixture of the House, whether we like it or not. Is not it wrong that a major Select Committee that can influence the way in which the House operates should not have a representative on the Liaison Committee, which is the Committee of all the Chairmen of the Select Committees of this House? Will the Minister review the issue as a matter of urgency and fairness?

Nigel Griffiths: The Modernisation Committee may indeed be fairly new in terms of the history of this House and it may indeed, to use the hon. Member's words, be a permanent fixture, but it is not in our permanent Standing Orders. I pay tribute to the valuable role that the Modernisation Committee plays in this place, but there are other Committees whose Chairs are not represented either. It is, of course, open to any Member or any Committee of this House to make direct representations to the Liaison Committee, and I urge the hon. Member to do that.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): With all due respect to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), surely, if there is a place available on the Liaison Committee, it has to go to a representative of the minority parties. Currently, we are completely excluded from that important Committee, and denied the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on key issues of the day. Does the Minister agree that the Committee does not need any more members from the three main parties and that that exclusion must be addressed?

Nigel Griffiths: I have to say to the hon. Member that there is minority party representation, but it is not his party—it is the Liberal Democrats. It is up to him and his colleagues to sort the matter out with them. I have to stress that the deliberations of the Liaison Committee are available to all and representations are taken, as I have said, from Members. I attribute the same importance to every Member of the House, so if the hon. Member wishes to make representations to the Liaison Committee, he should do so.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of us think that modernisation should come to an end fairly soon? Would it not be interesting to allow the Chairman of the Modernisation Committee to sit on the Liaison Committee? Then we could hear the Leader of the House question the Prime Minister in public.

Nigel Griffiths: The issue of whether the Chair of the Modernisation Committee should be on the Liaison Committee has already been covered when I referred to the Committees established under the permanent Standing Orders of the House. It is also important to note that, with the Committee already comprising 30 members and the Chair, there is plenty of scope and plenty of representation across the House. There is no reason why any question that an hon. Member feels is appropriate should fail to be put to the Prime Minister or to anyone else.
13 Dec 2005 : Column 1232

Modernisation Committee

32. Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): If he will press the Modernisation Committee of the House of Commons to recommend a procedure for moving amendments to statutory instruments. [36659]

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Nigel Griffiths): No. Delegated legislation covers subsidiary areas of law making that Parliament has already decided should, subject to certain safeguards, be for Ministers to deal with. Those safeguards are laid down in the parent Act and there are opportunities under the negative or affirmative procedure for the House to reject any instrument.

Norman Baker: The Minister is a fair man and he will recognise that on some occasions in Committees when statutory instruments are presented, it becomes apparent that a minor change would be beneficial. Sometimes all parties agree on that, but the Government do not want to take the SI back for further consideration, so it gets pushed through in its unamended and deformed state. Would it not be far better if Members could amend SIs? If that were allowed to happen, the legislation would be better and it would help the Government.

Nigel Griffiths: A number of organisations, including the Procedure Committee, have looked into this matter. The Hansard Society examined it under Lord Rippon and concluded:

It is that flexibility that we do not wish to lose and neither do we wish the statutory instrument procedure to become yet another series of whipped votes on issues, which I fear it would undoubtedly become.

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): I am interested to hear the Minister's comment that statutory instrument procedure should not become a matter of whipped votes, which, of course, they are when a vote is taken in the Committee considering a particular instrument. Given the number of legislative measures that are enacted not through a Bill but through secondary legislation and given that statutory instruments are debated for a maximum of only one and a half hours under the negative procedure, does not the Minister believe that the time has come for better scrutiny of the statutory instruments and regulations that the Government use as a secondary means of introducing legislation?

Nigel Griffiths: First, I welcome the right hon. Lady to her post as shadow Leader of the House. Having looked into the problem—the Procedure Committee looked into it more recently than the Hansard Society, and it is kept under review by Committees of the House—I do not believe that there is a convincing case for opening up statutory instruments to a different set of procedures from the existing ones that have been used for some time. I have to disappoint the right hon. Lady by saying that I do not accept her point of view on this matter.
13 Dec 2005 : Column 1233

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) is obviously right, but is there not an even more worrying development? Over recent months, Northern Ireland legislation has been introduced by statutory instruments. It is, in effect, primary legislation, but because of the rules of the House, it is unamendable. Will the Minister at least consider the matter further in the context of dealing adequately with Northern Ireland legislation?

Nigel Griffiths: The important point about Northern Ireland legislation is that, as the peace process moves forward, we have to re-establish the Northern Ireland Assembly as quickly as possible. It is important to move in that direction rather than consider temporary measures to cope with what we all hope will be a temporary issue.


The hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

Cleaners (Pay Dispute)

33. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): What plans the Commission has to help resolve the dispute with the House's contract cleaners. [36660]

Nick Harvey (North Devon) : I understand that the employing company has made an offer to the union representing its work force, about which the union is consulting its membership. To provide further information at this delicate stage in the negotiations would not be helpful to either side.

Julie Morgan: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's response and I am glad that some progress has been made, but does he not think that this situation will continue as a running sore until there is a satisfactory
13 Dec 2005 : Column 1234
resolution, and that it may be necessary for the House of Commons Commission to involve itself and to renegotiate the contract?

Nick Harvey: The authorities of the House have been actively involved in discussions with the employer company and I am very hopeful that a resolution can now be found. However, given that the proposal is being discussed and negotiated at this very moment, there is a limit to what I can say at this stage if I am to avoid being unhelpful.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House, despite the acknowledged sensitivity of the negotiations, whether any attempt will be made to bridge the gap between this Parliament and other European Parliaments, in that no other European Parliament allows its cleaners to be paid so little and none allows them to be employed without sick pay or pension provision? Are those two issues also under discussion?

Nick Harvey: I am not party to the negotiations but I believe that the issues to which the hon. Gentleman refers are indeed under discussion. On comparisons, he will have to accept that employees in central London are employed in a local market here, and that comparisons with other markets in other countries are not really valid for the purposes of concluding a contract negotiation.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): I am absolutely delighted that progress is allegedly being made. That said, there are stories circulating that the trade union involved is flexing its muscles, but nothing could be further from the truth; rather, it is defending basic, principled rights and representing people who are among the most vulnerable in our society. That is what trade unionism is about, not flexing muscles.

Nick Harvey: I have not heard such suggestions and I am sure that the trade union involved is doing its best to represent its members. As I said, I am hopeful that a conclusion can be arrived at before long.

13 Dec 2005 : Column 1235

Next Section IndexHome Page