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Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will be aware, Members on both sides of the House have now tabled a substantive motion calling for a vote of no confidence
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in you. When will Members be allowed to choose a new Speaker with the moral authority to clean up Westminster and the legitimacy to lift this House out of the mire?

Mr. Speaker: I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken— [ Interruption. ] I will answer. I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken advice, but it is not a substantive motion. It is an early-day motion— [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman is telling me that it is not. Please give me credit for having some experience in the Chair. It is not a substantive motion; it is an early-day motion. The hon. Gentleman knows—

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): It is a substantive motion. The Deputy Leader of the House just told me that it is a substantive motion.

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let me ask the Clerk; if I am wrong I will say so. It is a motion on the remaining orders, and can only be proceeded with if it becomes a substantive motion.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is, as you say, great public anger outside that undoubtedly has harmed the reputation of this House. We all bear responsibility; I take my share of the responsibility, like any other hon. Member. I am not associated with the motion, Sir, but will you bear in mind that it would be very useful for the reputation of this House—I say this with reluctance, but I say it all the same—if you gave some indication of your own intention to retire? Your early retirement would help the reputation of the House.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has served under more Speakers than I have and he knows that that is not a subject for today.

Mr. Winnick: It should be answered by you, Sir—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have a great deal of personal sympathy for the impossible situation in which you find yourself. I have to say that the statement you have made would have been extremely welcome had it been made a few weeks or months ago, but I have very grave doubts, given the appalling situation in which we find ourselves—this midden of the House’s own making—that any action taken by Members of this House will restore the trust that we need. Is it not therefore necessary, and can you assist us in this, Mr. Speaker, for this House to resolve to accept unequivocally the results of Sir Christopher Kelly’s decisions—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must stop the hon. Gentleman. I cannot give an assurance as to whether the proposals of any organisation will be accepted by this House. This House must make that acceptance.

Mr. Heath rose—

Mr. Speaker: Let me finish. I think that I must clarify a certain situation. I said it in the statement—Sir Christopher Kelly will not report until the autumn and therefore steps have to be taken within this House.

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Mr. Heath: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What I was asking was that the House be given an opportunity to resolve to accept the recommendations of that independent committee, to resolve to remove the remaining barriers to transparency so that everything can be revealed as soon as possible, and to accept that those right hon. and hon. Members who put us into this position by resisting reform cannot possibly be the right people to lead us out of the mire.

Mr. Speaker: I say to the hon. Gentleman that until resolutions are put forward—I hope that they come forward in the meeting that I have proposed—for which the Leader of the House will have responsibility, and only then, will the House be able to proceed. He mentioned transparency, and, yes, as I have stated, I have heard leaders of the parties and others talk about many issues, some of which were brought up on 3 July by the Committee that I chair. What I can say about that point is that anything about transparency can be on the agenda at the meeting that will take place within 48 hours and can hopefully be translated into a resolution that this House can consider.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The times that we are living in are unprecedented, as far as Parliament is concerned. What is at stake is the institution of Parliament and its integrity. May I just say that I very much hope that you will take account of the fact that profound concern is voiced in the motion that is to go down tomorrow? May I ask you to bear in mind that the condition of the House today is rather like the condition of the country at the time of the Norway debate, and could you reflect on that?

Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South) (LD): Further to that a point of order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hancock: At the meeting that you, Mr. Speaker, will convene within 48 hours, will you ask Sir Christopher Kelly what resources he would need to bring his report forward from the autumn, because that date seems wholly unacceptable? If it is a question of resources, they should be made available to enable him to do the work, certainly so speedily that it is done one month from now. I urge you to discuss that with the party leaders and the House of Commons Commission.

Mr. Speaker: I take on board what the hon. Gentleman has to say.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be possible for Kelly to bring forward a very early interim report, with something that we could adopt, to make the changes more immediate?

Mr. Speaker: I have heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The reputation and standing of the House, in the views of those who send us here, are at the lowest point that I can ever remember. This is a constitutional crisis, and we now have to hear a statement about the future. Many out
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there will not believe that we are serious about the changes that are necessary as long as you are in the Chair. That is the terrible situation that we are in. I feel the greatest sadness that I have even had to raise this point. There is a motion on the Order Paper, and it should be debated, and the Government should acknowledge that it will be debated.

Mr. Speaker: What the hon. Gentleman is doing, through a point of order, is debating the matter. [Interruption.] Order. He has a point of view, and I do not deny him that right, but he knows the rules of the House. That is not a debate that he can enter into through a point of order.

Mr. Shepherd: How do we discuss things in this House if—

Mr. Speaker: If the hon. Gentleman does not know that, no one will know. [Interruption.] Order.

Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The majority in this House will fully support the statement that you made today. The majority in the House will fully accept that there has never been, in the history of our land, such an attack on the Speaker of the House of Commons. There has never been such an attack on the chairmanship and speakership of this House. Are not the steps that you are taking, with the steps that Sir Christopher Kelly is taking, the steps that the Prime Minister has asked for and the review of four years of our expenses, all designed to restore public confidence and public trust? Should not the House calm itself down, have a period of reflection, and support you, as the Speaker is entitled to be supported?

Mr. Speaker: All I say to the hon. Gentleman is that the House of Commons Commission, which this House created— [Interruption.] Order. As far as I know, the Commission was created under statute. The House of Commons Commission has a responsibility. The party leaders—all of them, including the leaders of the minority parties—have a responsibility. What I am saying is: let all the parties involved meet and discuss the matter. That has never happened. What has happened is that one party has said one thing, the Prime Minister has said another, and the Liberal party another. Other individual Members have had a point of view, too. For the first time, people will be under the one roof, talking about this matter.

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is a sad day for all of us. The point that you made earlier is, I am sure, absolutely right: the motion is an early-day motion, not a substantive motion. Is it within the power of a Back Bencher to put down a substantive motion, and if so, how?

Mr. Speaker: It has to be on the Order Paper, and not under the remaining orders. That is a matter for the Government, not for the Chair. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Order.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I welcome, as I am sure the House must do, your statement today— [ Interruption. ]

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Mr. Speaker: Order. Given the difficulty we are in, I should be able to hear an hon. Member who is speaking.

Bob Spink: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The whole House must welcome your statement today, so thank you.

Sir, in view of the Whit recess next week, will you be able to come to the House and make a further statement following your meeting with the party leaders? Following that statement, may we have a debate, so that I can make it plain that my constituents, like most people’s constituents, do not want to see you made a scapegoat for the actions of these Members?

Mr. Speaker: I will make a statement as soon as I am in a position to do so regarding the report back, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will keep the House informed in every way possible.

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I ask for your guidance as to whether there is anything in your power to guide the Government to provide us with an Opposition day debate in which this matter, which most of the House wishes to debate, could be introduced as a substantive motion?

Mr. Speaker: I have no responsibility for the subject of debate. I have to make it clear that I am not continuing with what seems to be a debate on this matter. I have made a statement.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr. Speaker: To be helpful, I call Sammy Wilson.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. First, may I say that I welcome the opportunity not just for the main parties in the House but for the minority parties to have a discussion on the issue with you and to make recommendations? I believe, as other Members have said, that the very reputation not just of the House but of the future of good governance in the United Kingdom is at stake. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you can give us an assurance that, after those discussions, a report will quickly be given to the House as to their outcome so that the matter can be put behind us and settled?

Mr. Speaker: I will do that—I promise that I will do that.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) have confessed to claiming fraudulently tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money for phantom mortgage claims.— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Please— [ Interruption. ] Order. We have to be careful about what we say. There are things that I could have said from the Chair expressing anger about certain things, but I had to be careful. I must ask hon. Members to do so, too. I caution the hon. Gentleman, not for my sake, but for his sake: he should not say this. In fact, I have to stop him saying it, and I give him good advice.

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Opposition Day

[11th Allotted Day]

Skills in the Recession

Mr. Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

3.48 pm

Mr. David Willetts (Havant) (Con): I beg to move,

Our motion is about the economic crisis facing our country, but I sense that it is not the House’s preoccupation at this very moment. However, the situation that we are in is perilous, because we face serious economic difficulties, which is the subject that we are debating, at a time when the country has clearly lost confidence in us as the House of Commons. We have to reflect on the seriousness of the constitutional challenges that we face, as well as the economic challenges. It is the combination of the two that makes our situation so serious.

The seriousness of the economic situation was brought home to us by last week’s unemployment figures, which showed an increase of 250,000 in three months—the fastest quarterly increase on record, taking unemployment to the level it was when Labour came to office in 1997. The Opposition’s fear is that young people in particular will be the victims of the recession, one estimate being that if, tragically, unemployment were to rise to 3 million, more than 1.25 million of those unemployed people would be aged under 25.

Ian Stewart (Eccles) (Lab): If unemployment is a tragedy now, why would the hon. Gentleman not accept and admit it was a tragedy for 3 million people to be unemployed when he was in government?

Mr. Willetts: Indeed, it was a tragedy when 3 million people were unemployed before. The aim of our debate today is to identify the measures that can avoid that happening again. That is what we are focusing on.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): I do not know whether my hon. Friend had an opportunity to see the recent statement by the Association of Learning Providers, pointing out how excellent the community programme under the Conservatives in the 1980s was, and saying that something similar, coupled with apprenticeships, could be a way of ensuring that apprentices do not lose their education and skills because they are thrown out of work. Will he look at that idea?

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