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14. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What estimate she has made of the likely effect of the merger of the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office with the Crown Prosecution Service on the number of jobs in the CPS. 
The Solicitor-General: The merger of the RCPO and the CPS will generate efficiency savings as we combine the strengths of the two organisations, with the aim of delivering an enhanced prosecution service. We anticipate making savings through a range of means, including some headcount reduction over time. At present, however, the management is assuring staff that their employment is secure and that any future reductions will be achieved through natural wastage, as it is called, and as part of ongoing efficiency planning.
The trade unions, the Public and Commercial Services Union and the FDA, might well have been reassured by the CPS that they will be fully consulted about the implementation of the merger, but what reassurance can my hon. and learned Friend give to the skilled, dedicated staff in the RCPO and the CPS
that they will not ultimately become casualties of the Treasurys remorseless fixation with driving down headcount?
The Solicitor-General: Actually, we had this merger in mind at some stage, irrespective of the remorselessness of the Treasury, because we thought it would enhance the prosecution service we give to the public. The history of the RCPOs roots demonstrates why that element of prosecution was not included in the remit of the CPS, but that is now indeed history, and it will be optimally beneficial for the public for the two agencies to work together. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making it clear that this is a merger and not a takeover by the larger organisation, the CPS, of the smaller one. Management have assured staff that they will all have a job on transfer, which applies to both components, and have stressed the large amount of work that the RCPO will bring into the CPS in any event. All the RCPO contracts will be transferred to the CPS and the existing terms and conditions will be kept at the point of transfer. As I said in my original answer, any further reductions are currentlyoptimistically, but, I think, rightlylikely to be achieved through what is called natural wastage, which is not a very nice term, but means retirement.
17. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on the respective roles of the Committee on Standards and Privileges and the proposed Parliamentary Standards Authority; and if she will make a statement. 
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The Justice Secretary and I have had significant discussions about a Bill to create the Parliamentary Standards Authority. As well as having discussions within Government, we are consulting all parties represented in the House, and the Chair of the Committee on Standards and Privileges has attended those meetings.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Governments democratic councilwhatever that iswanted the immediate creation of the Parliamentary Standards Authority, which would have wide-ranging powers over the House, including those of disciplining and fining Members of Parliament. Since that task has been very well discharged by the Committee on Standards and Privileges for some years, why do the Government want to transfer it to an external, unelected, unaccountable quango, which would in itself turn the clock back several hundred years as regards the powers of this Housea move that would be heartily welcomed by King Charles I?
It was not just the Prime Minister, but all the party leaders who agreed to my right hon. Friends proposal to put the setting and administration of our allowances on an independent footing. We should
all recognise that a public perception has emerged that we arrange the allowances in our own interests rather than in the interest of our doing our job, that we then administer these allowances within the House of Commons and lean on officials to exercise their judgment in our interests. We need to address that perception so that people can have confidence in the high standards of the House of Commons. The proposal to overcome that perception, which has been subject to wide-ranging discussions and on which we will have further such discussions, is to create an independent Parliamentary Standards Authority so that we can no longer vote on our own allowances, which will be set independently; the functions of the Fees Office will be transferred to that authority. That is the remit of the Parliamentary Standards Authority; rather than questions of conduct in this House, it is all about putting our allowances on a proper, transparent footing with fair and firm rules that will allow us to get on with our job and give the public confidence that the allowance system is being run independently.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The Leader of the House, and, indeed, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) have had the pleasure of giving extensive evidence before Sir Christopher Kellys Committee over the last couple of days. Given that Committees interest in this matter, would it not be sensible if the draft legislation for the Parliamentary Standards Authority were sent as soon as ready to it for its early consideration so that it can give advice to the House before we set in statute something with which it might profoundly disagree?
Ms Harman: The Justice Secretary will meet Sir Christopher Kelly this afternoon, but it might be helpful for Members to see the Parliamentary Standards Authority as the hardware and the inquiry into allowances conducted by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and its recommendations for a new allowance system as the software. If, as I hope, we can legislate for and set up the new independent authority before the House rises for the summer, if Sir Christopher Kelly is able to report in, say, Octoberobviously when he reports is a matter for him, because he is independent and arranges his timetable and inquiries according to his wishes and those of his committeeand if the Parliamentary Standards Authority can begin work in November, it will then be able to deal with Sir Christophers proposals on allowances.
We need to make absolutely sure that we get the system right. I hope that no one will think that we can simply carry on as we were after this crisis. There has been a profound undermining of public confidence, and the best way we can handle that is to say We are not doing this ourselves any more. The allowances are being set independently. What we are doing is getting on with our job of representing our constituents and holding the Executive to account.
Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): Will the Leader of the House explain what role, if any, the commission headed by the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) will have in relation to the Parliamentary Standards Authorityand, by the way, when will that commission report?
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister has said that he thinks it would be helpful if a parliamentary Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase addressed a number of issues relating to the way in which the House operates. We must address the knock that confidence in our Parliament has taken by dealing with the allowance system, but that will also give us an opportunity to look more widely at a number of issues that have been on the agenda and should now be dealt with. We intend to table a motion shortly to establish a Committee that will be able to consider direct representations from the public through e-petitioningthe Procedure Committee has already done a good deal of work on thatas well as how the House itself could decide what constitutes non-Government business, and time-limited Select Committees.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Does the Leader of the House recognise the important principle that except when a serious criminal offence has been committed, the ultimate court of appeal to decide whether a Member is allowed to continue to sit in the House must be the voters? There have historically been a number of occasions on which a Member of Parliament whom the authorities do not likea rebellionus Memberhas been returned at the insistence of the voters.
Ms Harman: The right hon. Gentleman has just enunciated a fundamental constitutional principle. We are accountable, because we are accountable to the electors at every general election. If the electors do not want to send a Member back to the House, they do not have to do so. In addition, we are accountable individually to the collective of the House. The House has wide-ranging powers to chuck out any Member at its discretion, and that will cause a by-election. We need to consider whether or not we have used those powers in the way in which the public expect us to.
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been producing rather long answers. I shall try to shorten them, but I thought that we were not going to use up the time. I shall try to get into less expansive mode.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask the Leader of the House briefly and unequivocally to confirm that, while the Parliamentary Standards Authority will deal with the financial matters about which she talkedwe all accept thatit will not become an appointed quango with jurisdiction over Members of Parliament? That would be intolerable and unacceptable to any right-thinking Member of Parliament.
Ms Harman: I think the answer to that is yes. The jurisdiction will be in respect of considering and paying Members allowances. Once we have a Parliamentary Standards Authority, if there is a general consensus that we want it to do more we can discuss that, and if there is a consensus we can ensure that it happens. However, that is not a matter for the initial Parliamentary Standards Authority Bill.
18. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): If she will establish a cross-party committee to review the functions, objectives and roles of the Procedure Committee and the Modernisation Committee; and if she will make a statement. 
The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Barbara Keeley): I am sure that the whole House agrees that the starting point for the further modernisation of the House should be the reforms to deal with the loss of confidence caused by the expenses scandal. We will shortly put proposals to the House to establish the new Parliamentary Reform Committee that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last week and to which the Leader of the House has just referred.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: The Modernisation Committee has not met for many, many, many months. The Procedure Committee is doing good work and could easily take over the role, functions and responsibilities of the Modernisation Committee. It is chaired by a Back-Bench Member of the House, as are all other Select Committees. Does the Deputy Leader of the House accept that the Committee announced by the Prime Minister should consist of those who have experience of the Modernisation Committee? I have been on the Modernisation Committee since it was formed, chaired the Procedure Committee for two Parliaments and have been in this place for some time. It would be helpful if the Leader of the House or her deputy indicated who is to be appointed to this Committee. Why has the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) been selected? He is a member of the governing party. Would not it be better for an Opposition Member to lead the Committee?
Barbara Keeley: The Modernisation Committee has not met because five of its members, from all parties represented on the Committee, have indicated their desire to leave it. It is up to the parties, through the usual channels, to re-nominate members so that the Modernisation Committee can continue. On chairing the Committee, the Modernisation Committee was aimed at taking forward the Governments modernisation agenda, so it made sense for the Leader of the House to chair it. Notwithstanding those points, there are many Members, of whom the hon. Gentleman is one, with great experience in these matters. I am sure that they would be welcome members of the new Parliamentary Reform Committee. It is of course up to the parties to decide on nominations.
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment. My understanding is that the Modernisation Committee was established to drive forward modernisation at a time when there did not seem to be a broad consensus in the House on that objective. Now that there does appear to be a consensus on modernisation and on strengthening the role of the Commons, may I suggest that my hon. Friend looks at ways of simplifying the various Committees that have been set up? There is a danger that many Committees will have difficulties getting members to sit on them to drive forward the agenda. Would not it be better if the agenda were driven by one Committee rather than a plethora of Committees that might not meet very often in some cases?
Barbara Keeley: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on my appointment. The Modernisation and Procedure Committees have secured some considerable achievements, but my hon. Friend is right, which is probably why the Prime Minister has accepted that the new Parliamentary Reform Committee should run for a defined period. It can take forward some of the excellent work done by the other two Committees. The Modernisation Committee has a piece of work to finish and will do so shortly. Following the interest shown in this topic, I hope that hon. Members will carry forward the excellent work of the two Committees and will volunteer to sit on the new Parliamentary Reform Committee. Clearly we can look at simplification later in the year.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): I congratulate the deputy Leader of the House on her appointment and look forward to working with her as closely as I did with her predecessor on the best practice and business of the House.
On Committees, will the hon. Lady inform us whether the Government have any intention of establishing a Select Committee on science. There is a huge amount of pressure to set up such a Committee, not least from the Minister for Science, the noble Lord Drayson. What is the Governments position on setting up a Select Committee to consider science policy?
Barbara Keeley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. Next Thursday we will be considering House business and our aim is to bring forward proposals for the Committee structure he has talked about. We are mindful of the fact that the previous Select Committee on Science and Technology was very popular, and I am sure it would be very welcome in all parts of the House if we were to table a motion to re-establish it.
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): May I join other Members in welcoming my hon. Friend to her new post? Speaking as a member of both the Modernisation Committee and the Procedure Committee, I urge on her the need for us to be prepared to take forward the work that will be done by the Parliamentary Reform Committee, which, as she said, will meet only for a defined period. I urge her to recognise that the work of the Modernisation Committee and the Procedure Committee significantly overlap and could easily be merged into the Procedure Committee, so ensuring that co-ordinated progress is made.
Barbara Keeley: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. This was a question that my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), found himself answering on many occasions at the Dispatch Box, so we really must consider the question put today, and make progress.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I welcome the fact that the energy of the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) will be applied to parliamentary reform, but could we not have achieved the same objective by his taking over the chairmanship of the Modernisation Committee?
That is a difficult one for me to answer. The Modernisation Committee, which I have been reading a lot about in the past few days, has
registered some great achievements, as has the Procedure Committee; we are very much looking forward to the Procedure Committees report on written questions. This is a new initiative, however, and it is very welcome; I do not want anybody to think that we do not very much welcome the new Parliamentary Reform Committee. It is an idea for its time, and the time is now.
Nick Harvey (North Devon): There have been three recent questions to the House of Commons Commission relating to the demonstrations in Parliament square, and 13 hon. Members have made representations in writing.
Mr. Robathan: Parliament square is a world heritage site, but it currently looks a bit like a rather dated set for an episode of Steptoe and Son. Will the House of Commons Commission, together with the Leader of the House and the Home Officeand whomeversort out this situation? I yield to nobody in my defence of peoples right to demonstrate outside Parliament, and in fact I deprecate the Criminal Justice Act that brought in some sort of strange exclusion zone to limit demonstrations outside Parliament. However, those demonstrations cannot go on for ever, and we should be able to strike a balance so that people may demonstrate and the world heritage site looks as it is meant to look.
Nick Harvey: The Serjeant at Arms has made representations to the Metropolitan police to the effect that access to this House is essential for the working of the House. Beyond that, the policing of Parliament square is a matter for the Metropolitan police, and by extension the Mayor of London and the Home Office. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but he would do better to raise these matters in Home Office questions, as they are not a matter for the House of Commons Commission.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating the Tamil community on the dignified way in which it conducted its protest, and on the fact that it vacated Parliament square yesterday? Although there are long-term issues to consider, as the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) has said, the fact that that demonstration is no longer there shows that by working with the police, organisations can get the right to protest and show that they are able to conduct themselves with dignity.
I am grateful that this gives me the opportunity to confirm that the Tamil demonstration is now over. I believe that there is to be a further large-scale
demonstration in central London, but the protest in Parliament square is over, and the authorisation for it was, I understand, due to expire in a few days time in any case.
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