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I have mentioned the difficulty of getting sufficient Members to serve on Committees or to turn up at Select Committee meetings. I must also point out, briefly, that
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the House is going to have to incur expenditure of more than £2 million at this time of financial difficulty. [Interruption.] Oh yes. It is indeed £2 million. That expenditure will be incurred to staff the Committees, to cover the costs of the Committees, the travel of the Committees and the expenses of the Committees. Even if it is just under £2 million, to my mind it is expenditure that we should not incur when the people of this country are having to face a financial crisis.

Sir Peter Soulsby: As one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues on the Modernisation Committee, I too heard the evidence that was given to us. Does he recall that the overwhelming majority of that evidence was firmly in favour of the establishment of proper scrutiny at a regional level, and that the amount of money that he is talking about is very small compared with the £2.3 billion spent every year by regional development agencies alone?

Sir Nicholas Winterton rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, I ask him to work out just how that point relates to the motion before the House and the membership of the Committees.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: I can say very clearly that every member of the regional Select Committee will incur expenditure. They will want to travel to the region that the Committee is supposed to represent and to cover. There will be travelling costs and accommodation costs. I also refer to the extremely heavy cost, much of it justified, of the excellent Clerks department that we have in the House, and to the fact that the Clerks are, rightly, very well remunerated staff of the House. There will therefore be considerable expenditure. I give way to the Deputy Leader of the House, who I am sure is going to try to correct the figures that I have cited.

Chris Bryant: I thought that I would. The hon. Gentleman is very kind. The figure that has been provided by the House is £1.135 million.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Because they will come forward in due course, I was of course referring to the regional Grand Committees as well. I can say to the Members of the House, as I say to the Deputy Leader of the House, that I have never known an estimate of this House that has not been exceeded in the reality.

Andrew Mackinlay: I understand that the members of the Clerks department who have been selected to fulfil the clerkship of these Committees are double-hatted. I stumbled across this business—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think that we are having enough difficulty establishing the membership from Members of this Chamber, without having to worry about the Clerks department.

Andrew Mackinlay: May I explain?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: No, I think that we will move on.

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Sir Nicholas Winterton: I had hoped and felt sure that the hon. Gentleman was going to be helpful, but naturally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, your word is law.

Mr. Heath: I hope that I can be helpful. So that the hon. Gentleman can relate the figure that he has given to the membership that is before us, I can tell him that it works out at £50,000 per Labour Member, or £30,000 if we take the figure from the Deputy Leader of the House.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: That is a very helpful intervention, for which I shall be eternally grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It is entirely wrong that that expenditure per head should be incurred. Members have been nominated by some magic circle to regional Select Committees. It has been done by the Government party. It is extraordinary that, as we scrap the regional assemblies, we are setting up here in the House other bodies to supervise the regions. The assemblies originally comprised—this was the hope—people who were very knowledgeable about the given area, and had considerable business or local government experience. All these matters are much more relevant to local government than they are to the House.

Julia Goldsworthy: Is it not the case that the regional assemblies were abandoned because they were not directly accountable and were seen as too remote from the regions? Can the hon. Gentleman imagine why anyone would think that regional Select Committees were any more directly accountable, or any closer to the regions that they were supposed to scrutinise?

Sir Nicholas Winterton: In my long time in this House, I have never known the Liberal Democrats to be so helpful to a Conservative and Unionist Member. The hon. Lady’s point is entirely relevant.

May I also say that I am a huge believer in this Chamber of the House of Commons? To my mind, this is the Chamber where Members of Parliament should be in attendance—I hesitate to use the word “manned” again, as I may upset the Deputy Leader of the House.

This proposal to set up the regional Select Committees will take away more Members—and there are few enough of them now—from the Chamber, which should be the core of the activities of a Member of Parliament. Perhaps, however, the Government want that, to enable them to get their ill-considered and badly debated legislation through the House even faster.

Andrew Mackinlay: Biblically, our Lord was only twice in two places at the same time, but what is going to be required of Members who serve on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee or the Foreign Affairs Committee and on a regional Select Committee at the same time? It is really a miracle.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: It is a miracle, and the hon. Gentleman has stolen my next three or four sentences, so I will not repeat what he has said. He is absolutely right, however: this Parliament will lose out by this proposal. I wish those on our Front Bench would vote against every motion on the Order Paper rather than take them all together, in order to show how much the people who are committed to this House disapprove of
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what the Government are doing in its name. It is a shame and it is diabolical. It will be bad for the House; I strongly oppose it and will vote against it in the Division at the end of the debate.

7.42 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), and I would like to add a brief footnote to the excellent points he has just made.

The Deputy Leader of the House put forward an argument in his opening speech about the legitimacy of Parliamentary Private Secretaries serving on these Select Committees. The argument he deployed was that, because Front-Bench Opposition spokesmen sat on Select Committees, it was legitimate for PPSs to do so, but there is a fundamental difference between a PPS and an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, in that a PPS owes his loyalty to the Government, whereas an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman does not. Therefore, in terms of holding the Executive to account, it is simply not the case that a PPS can be equated with a Front-Bench spokesman. It is a fundamental misconception to put the two on a par.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield made a point about quorums, and there is at present a real problem with quorums on Select Committees. The Sessional Returns show the pressure that the existing Select Committees are already under, and that will be made worse by the appointment of eight more Select Committees. The Public Accounts Committee is, perhaps, the most prestigious Select Committee, and it had an average attendance of 47.2 per cent. In other words, for most of the time most of its members were not present. The Regulatory Reform Committee had a 42.3 per cent. attendance rate, and the rate for the Environmental Audit Committee was 44.5 per cent. Some Select Committees are at present having real difficulties in meeting their quorum, and that will be aggravated if Members who already sit on Select Committees are put on additional ones.

Two of the Members nominated for the south-east regional Select Committee are already on two Select Committees and their resources will, inevitably, be stretched even further. One Member who is already so heavily committed that he or she was unable to attend one of the 12 meetings of a Select Committee on which he or she already sits is being put on a regional Select Committee. In my Select Committee, a Member was unable to attend for a long time for the perfectly good reason that he was on another Select Committee that met at exactly the same time. There is a real risk that in trying to set up these regional Committees, we will undermine the good work of those Select Committees that are already up and running.

I understand the doctrine of the mandate. A resolution came from a Select Committee, the Government got a majority for that proposition in the House, and therefore they can go on. If we look at the votes on 12 November, however, a slightly different picture emerges. One resolution was carried by two votes—and I have to say to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) that if he had voted the other way on that one, there would have been a tie on the proportion of Members from each
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party representing constituencies in each region. The hon. Gentleman voted with my party and other parties on the pay of Select Committee Chairmen, but on some of the other ones I am afraid that he voted in the other Lobby.

There is a key difference between resolutions that deal with Select Committees and resolutions that are delivering the Government’s manifesto. It is my experience that when reforms have been made to Select Committees and how they work, we have tried to do that by consensus and taking the other parties with us. There is a risk that, far from advancing the policy of the Government for the regions, having five out of nine Members, at best, going round the country, and all from one party, will do an injury to the vestiges of the regional policy that they still retain.

What the Government should have done was ask themselves, “With 15 months to the next general election, how important is it that we drive this reform through a divided House of Commons, and send Select Committees, with half their members not present, round the country, in the name of regionalism?” Would it not have been more sensible to have said, “Actually, we have other things to do at the moment. There are other ways of employing Members’ time. There are other reforms in the House of Commons that have a greater priority. Therefore, we will just park this one and not proceed with it”? If the Government had done that, we would all have understood: we would have applauded the wisdom, and we would have recognised that they had reflected on the very narrow votes that took place on 12 November and decided not to go ahead.

When these Committees start their work, I wonder how many times they will meet. I also wonder what practical work they will be able to do between now and the next general election, without at the same time undermining—

7.47 pm

One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the Business of the House motion, the Deputy Speaker put the Question (Order, this day).

The House divided: Ayes 257, Noes 190.
Division No. 51]
[7.47 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David

Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan

O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Barbara Keeley and
Claire Ward

Afriyie, Adam
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Dorries, Nadine
Duncan, Alan
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gale, Mr. Roger

Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, David
Smith, Sir Robert
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

James Duddridge and
Mr. Roger Williams
Question accordingly agreed to.
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