Previous Section Index Home Page

I remember when we were discussing the principle behind these payments a year and a half ago, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who is not in his place, asked where else people did not get increments for their length of service. A case could probably be made for the length of service as a criterion—I want to make it quite clear that I am not advocating
3 Mar 2009 : Column 812
that, but we need to consider these issues. The chairmanships of Committees are, at present, largely within the patronage of the political party managements. The hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) does a fine job on our arts committee, and the role is not highly contested—in fact, nobody is more suitably qualified than he is by virtue of his previous employment and experience—but he has, nevertheless, been anointed by the movers and shakers in this House. The Deputy Leader of the House screws up his face at that, but I am being polite. There are movers and shakers in this House, and they are largely made up from those on the Front Benches.

The chairmanships of so many Committees are filled by people who hitherto were Ministers. It is a way of letting them down gently. We were told by many hon. Members that there needed to be an alternative career structure—I do not like the term—so that instead of becoming Ministers Members could aspire to be parliamentarians and Chairs of Select Committees and other Committees. That was going to be the alternative to people always wanting to be Ministers. There is no demonstration that that is happening. Indeed, the present incumbent of the very important post in the Committee on Members’ Allowances is an ex-Minister. That is unhealthy. I am not prepared to acquiesce by my silence. It is unfair to Members and to the public, and it is time that we drew a line under this and got things right for the next Parliament.

Mr. Swire: Just for the record, I want to point out that I do not think that those from either Front Bench are ever involved in the selection of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. Indeed, we all serve at the Speaker’s will.

Andrew Mackinlay: I fully accept that. Interestingly enough, I expressed an interest in joining this Committee, but once again I was not appointed. Just because I am paranoid, that does not mean that that they are not after me. There is always some discrimination when certain hon. Members seek appointments, based on a dislike of their conduct or style, or of what they say and how they say it. It is really unhealthy for the body politic and the democratic process in this House when Members are rewarded with sinecures and significant payments.

I intend to divide the House on this matter. I urge colleagues to join me in the Lobby to vote against the proposition that the hon. Member chairing the Committee on Members’ Allowances should be paid. I oppose that, although I can see the compelling logic of motion 15, which proposes that he be on the Liaison Committee.

8.20 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): There is no need to take long over this, but some important points need to be made. The exchange between the Deputy Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House was extremely helpful in setting out the anticipated relationship between the various tiers of appeal, and I shall be interested, Madam Deputy Speaker, to hear what the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the Chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee, has to say if he succeeds in catching your eye in a moment. However, I hope that what has been set out will satisfy him that the role of his
3 Mar 2009 : Column 813
Committee remains clear and undiminished when it comes to investigating, and adjudicating on, hon. Members when they are in error.

We are only having this debate because of a minor error anyway, as the proposals that we are debating should have been included when we last discussed these matters. They were not and, although I can understand why they were overlooked, it is unfortunate that parliamentary time has to be taken up with consequential amendments to a package that the House has determined already. It is not my intention, therefore, to raise issues with the corrections and amendments—one might call them errata—that the Deputy Leader of the House has brought forward today, and I await the comments of the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire on the matter.

I have to say that I agree with the point made by with the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). This is a free-vote matter, and I shall not give advice to my right hon. and hon. Friends, but the hon. Gentleman knows that I have joined him consistently in the Lobby when it has come up. There is an expectation that more and more ways will be found to pay Members of this House on top of their parliamentary salaries. Very soon, we will reach the point where the only people in the House who do not receive a top-up of some kind will be the members of the two Opposition Front Benches—with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservatives’ Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip—the Deputy Leader of the House, and the hon. Member for Thurrock.

We will be the only ones on the basic salary, and we should be proud of that, although I am not sure that the system that I have described necessarily represents value to the House in terms of work rate, or a sensible way to use public funds. However, I am quite sure that the impression given to the public every time that we add another person to the list is that Members of Parliament are yet again feathering their own nests. That is something to be concerned about.

I have nothing against the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), who I am sure will do a very good job of chairing the Committee, but I am not sure that the new Committee’s work is comparable with that of the departmental Select Committees. They meet probably twice a week to take evidence and do all the other work that they have to do, whereas the Committee on Members’ Allowances will have an important but limited role.

The intention behind the Committee is to reduce the costs to the House, so it is a little odd that the very first action is to add another salary to those costs. Some people might see that as ironic.

Unlike the hon. Member for Thurrock, I am not persuaded that the Chairman of the Committee on Members’ Allowances should necessarily be on the Liaison Committee. That Committee is becoming very big and extensive: its job is to co-ordinate the Committees of this House so that they do not fall over one another, but it has one other scrutiny function—to interrogate the Prime Minister of the day. I am not sure that adding to it more and more members who do not have departmental responsibilities is a good idea. We should be wary of simply accepting that anyone in this House who bears the title “Chairman” must join the Liaison
3 Mar 2009 : Column 814
Committee, because I am not sure that that is helpful for scrutiny or for the comparability of various roles in the House.

Even so, I am not going to argue about that or divide the House on the matter this evening but, if the hon. Member for Thurrock calls a Division on the question of pay, I shall join him in the Lobby because I think that this is a point about which we should put down markers. That is what I did earlier in respect of the regional Select Committees, and I have done so before when other Committee chairmanships have been added to the list. I feel that we are seeing a sort of creeping exceptionalism, in which the exception is proving to be the rule. I do not think that that is a sensible way for us to proceed.

8.26 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): To pick up a point made earlier by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), I think that it would be difficult to say that every Select Committee Chairman shall be paid except this one. I understand where he and the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) are coming from, but the principle has been conceded already. Moreover, I suspect that the new Committee will be quite important and busy, so it would be unfair to say that every Select Committee Chairman shall be paid but not the one who chairs the Committee on Members’ Allowances. Therefore, if there is a Division, I shall be in the opposite Lobby from the hon. Member for Thurrock. That may not happen often. I welcome the appointment of the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) to the Liaison Committee. Many of the matters that we discuss may impinge on the responsibilities of his Committee and it will be useful to have him there.

I want to add a footnote to the very helpful exchange that we heard earlier, and to set out my concern when I saw what was on the Order Paper. Motion 16(2)(d) makes it clear that the Committee on Members’ Allowances will determine

The question arises how that fits in with the existing procedure—what one might call the post-Nolan settlement, whereby we established an independent parliamentary commissioner reporting to the Standards and Privileges Committee, which published his findings on any complaint, along with the conclusions. At first sight, that sentence seems to take away from the existing Committee and the commissioner the responsibility for seeing whether the rules on allowances had been broken, and gives it to the new Committee—hence the concern that I expressed in the amendment that has not been selected.

It is important that the House of Commons retains those elements that we now have. Indeed, the other place may be looking at such a structure to resolve some of the difficulties—the Deputy Leader of the House is looking worried already. I give way.

Chris Bryant: I was not looking worried. I am never worried when the right hon. Gentleman is on his feet. I was merely going to say that some hon. Members may have misunderstood, possibly because there is an
3 Mar 2009 : Column 815
element of ambiguity in motion 16, paragraph (2)(d). The expectation of the Committees that originally proposed the reference to

was not that one hon. Member would refer an issue about another hon. Member to the Committee, but that a Member would refer a matter relating to his own allowances. That is very different from the expectation in the case of the right hon. Gentleman’s Committee.

Sir George Young: Yes, that takes part of the trick, but it does not resolve the fundamental problem. Even in those circumstances where a Member self-referred himself to the Members’ Allowances Committee and got the go-ahead, there would still be the possibility of double jeopardy, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The self-referring Member may well get the green light from the Members’ Allowances Committee and go ahead. There may well be a complaint from a member of the public to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who may well feel that there is a prima facie case and go ahead. There is an element of risk of double jeopardy.

The answer is a good working relationship between my Committee, the commissioner and the new Committee, to make sure that we minimise the risk of double jeopardy. I personally welcome the establishment of the Committee, and I hope it will produce guidelines that clarify the rules and reduce the risk of Members making mistakes.

I was reassured by the statement of the Deputy Leader of the House on the record that notwithstanding anything that may be before the House this evening, the duties, powers and responsibilities of the Committee on Standards and Privileges or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards are not affected. It was enormously helpful to have that on the record, endorsed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan). That takes the trick.

There was concern on my Committee at the possibility of the Nolan settlement being picked away. Against the background of the assurances that I have been given, I am much happier than I was and I look forward to working with the right hon. Member for Islwyn and his Committee in driving up standards in the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Does the Deputy Leader of the House wish to reply to the debate?

Chris Bryant: I think the House has heard quite enough from me today, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes 242, Noes 73.
Division No. 52]
[8.31 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
Bell, Sir Stuart
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
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Creagh, Mary
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, rh John
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Knight, rh Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
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
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura

Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mundell, David
Munn, Meg
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
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
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
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Twigg, Derek
Viggers, Sir Peter
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Chris Mole and
Ms Diana R. Johnson

Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brooke, Annette
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Don
Gidley, Sandra
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jones, Lynne
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Luff, Peter
McCrea, Dr. William

Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Pritchard, Mark
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robertson, Hugh
Rogerson, Dan
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Simpson, David
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Tellers for the Noes:

Andrew Mackinlay and
Jim Dowd
Question accordingly agreed to.

3 Mar 2009 : Column 816

3 Mar 2009 : Column 817

3 Mar 2009 : Column 818


pay for chairmen of select committees (no. 2)

Queen’s recommendation signified.


Next Section Index Home Page