Previous Section Index Home Page

Will the Deputy Leader of the House expand a little on that? I understand perfectly well why she does not wish to introduce new Standing Orders for a new Committee and instead to make all those arrangements under Standing Order No. 152, but for the Science and Technology Committee to work effectively, it is important that it has the power to scrutinise science budgets. The research councils spend the majority of the Government’s money for pure science, and it is in respect of the protection of pure science that there is the greatest concern that the move into the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills might see a shift towards greater transactional science and the use of science for business at the expense of basic pure science. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will be able to reassure me on that.

On the plight of universities, I am not betraying a confidence when I say that I had discussions this morning with the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge university, Alison Richard. She expressed very real concerns about how universities are going to be scrutinised within this massive new Department. I fully accept that my Committee will be able to look at the research elements of universities—that is right and proper—but issues related to teaching, undergraduate work, access to universities, how we keep our universities world class and so forth is a job for a Committee on its own, particularly given that a review of fees will take place and that the former Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills has committed to reviewing the form and function of higher education in the future.

As for the structure, the new Committee will have 14 members. I smiled earlier when the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) spoke about the Conservative party’s passion for science. The hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) is a glowing example of that commitment, as he has maintained a huge desire to promote science on behalf of the Conservative party, and I pay tribute to him. I say to the Conservative Front Benchers, however, that although there were four Conservative members of the Committee since 2007, only one has ever turned up for active participation. Two members of the Committee—the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) and the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink)—have never once attended a single Committee meeting.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) is not a Tory.

Mr. Willis: Well, he was when he became a member of the Committee. [Interruption.] I do not want to intrude on grief—or, perhaps, happiness, depending on which way one looks at it. With the exception of the fantastic contribution of the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), a fantastic member of the Committee, unless we get all the parties actively participating in scrutiny, the Select Committee will not achieve what it should. I say that in a good spirit, not in a negative manner.

Overall, I can tell the Deputy Leader of the House that we are delighted with the changes, as is the broader community of science. I only hope that the Committee
25 Jun 2009 : Column 1016
will live up to the House’s expectations in the few months before we have a general election and I retire for my pension.

4.4 pm

Barbara Keeley: We have had an excellent debate on two different motions this afternoon. I am pleased that we were able to discuss the Science and Technology Committee and the structures of such Committees as well as make some constructive contributions to the debate on pensions. I have been asked some specific questions, and I will ensure that good answers are provided to any that I am unable to answer here and now.

We are all grateful that there is such a wide consensus on the new Science and Technology Committee. I regret that a mistaken step was taken in the past when we got rid of something that was doing excellent work. I am sure, however, that there is widespread consensus on the views just expressed by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis).

In business questions today, there was discussion of what Select Committees can do. Let me re-emphasise that it is up to Committees to take a wide-ranging approach to their remit, and to examine the full scope of science policy and related matters across government. Earlier this week, a Hansard Society conference considered the role of departmental Select Committees. We have now moved beyond Departments turning around and saying to Select Committees, “We don’t want to answer that,” or, “You can’t look at that.” That should no longer occur in Select Committees. In the new spirit of reform, if a Select Committee decides that it wants to scrutinise research budgets, for example, it should be able to do so.

I am also aware of the comments of Universities UK that there should be a Sub-Committee devoted to higher education. Clearly, it is up to the new departmental Select Committee to consider that. We would not want to tell it that it should set up a Sub-Committee, although clearly it could do so. Higher education is a key aspect of the work of any business Department—and of the new Select Committee. It could not be otherwise. Education has been a priority for the Government since 1997. Let us hope that the Select Committee sets up such a Sub-Committee.

May I, like other Members, thank the trustees of the parliamentary pension fund for their work, and particularly the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), who spoke lucidly and expansively, for his chairmanship? May I correct the suggestion made by the shadow Leader of the House that there was a lack of consultation with the trustees and chair of the pension fund? My predecessor, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), did consult the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West. In fact, we postponed the motions before the House because he was away for a short time due to ill health, and we felt that it would not be right to consider them without him here. In my new role, I have had meetings and reviewed earlier correspondence—the consultation came in a busy week, but I was glad of the time I spent with him.

On the questions about the 20 per cent. cap and the 0.2 per cent. figure, I cannot give adequate answers in the Chamber now. I will find out the answers to those good questions, and to the detailed questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner).

25 Jun 2009 : Column 1017

My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House is content to return to the House with further proposals to ensure that the Exchequer’s contribution this year does not exceed that of last year. As to the main motion, Members have asked both why we did not bring it forward earlier, and why we do not do so later. Whatever happens, the interim step of the main motion is necessary to cap the Exchequer contribution. That will entail back-dated additional payments, so it would have been unfair to people to wait until later this year.

I am glad that we have been able to support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb), my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable). If I may repeat an overused phrase this week, we do get it. We understand the context outside the House to which many hon. Members have referred. We will return to the debate, and give Members a chance to vote on or agree the options necessary to achieve a freeze on the Exchequer contribution.

Mr. Love: May I accept my hon. Friend’s thanks on behalf of the trustees? There appears to be a consensus across the Chamber on the motion and, I think, the amendment. That makes it all the more important that we have consensus as major changes are made to the pension scheme. I ask the Office of the Leader of the House to take a lead in ensuring that all hon. Members, not just those who have turned up today, are fully consulted so that we take everyone with us?

Barbara Keeley: That is a fair point and I will take it on board.

We will return to the debate and give hon. Members a chance to vote on, or agree, the options necessary to achieve that freeze. We will, of course, later this year tackle the wider ranging reforms resulting from the review undertaken by the SSRB.

We should end on the point that in future we must tackle the problem through an independent body. Like all the other changes that we are making, we should consult Members, but the matters should be decided by recommendations made by another body. We should not have to decide such things for ourselves.

Question put and agreed to.


    Business, Innovation and Skills

    Department for Business, Innovation and



    Science and Technology

    Government Office for Science


25 Jun 2009 : Column 1018

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): We come to motion 5—

Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have clearly not understood the rules. Will I be able to move amendment (a) formally?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Yes.

parliamentary pensions

Motion made, and Question proposed,

Amendment made: (a) at end add

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. There is growing anger concerning motion 9, which we will shortly reach, because it seeks to require the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Grand Committee to meet in Barnsley. Many
25 Jun 2009 : Column 1019
Opposition Members feel that it should meet in Bridlington— [Interruption.] I am supported in that view by my hon. Friends the Members for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) and for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart). Will you confirm that under the provision of Standing Order 117A, it is not possible to debate the motion, or the motions that come before it, because of the terms of the Standing Order, even though we have not yet reached the moment of interruption? Because of that, is it not the case that the only way in which my hon. Friends and I can show our displeasure at the motions is by dividing the House?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I can confirm what the right hon. Gentleman says. There can be no debate, but when that motion is reached on the Order Paper, he may well divide the House if he wishes.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Will you, from the Chair, advise the House whether this is a good issue to refer to the Procedure Committee? It seems that Back-Bench Members will be totally out of the loop in discussions on the time and place where the Regional Committeeswill meet.

Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is in a position to make that referral to the Procedure Committee himself.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have listened carefully to the concerns expressed by right hon. and hon. Members. Given that we were given no notice of the motions beyond the fact that they would be on the Order Paper today, is there any way for the Chair to consider manuscript amendments, or will we have no debate and no amendments?

Madam Deputy Speaker: I regret to inform the hon. Gentleman that it is not possible for that to be done today.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that it is only 4.15 pm and the Minister is present, is it not possible for her to explain to us why the meeting of the North West Regional Grand Committee must take place when Parliament has reassembled, but other Regional Grand Committees are to meet when it is in recess? Some Committees are meeting at the same time as both the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative party conferences, yet none are meeting at the same time as the Labour party conference. Can the Minister not stand up and explain those facts to the House?

Hon. Members: Answer!

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The occupant of the Chair is about to give an answer.

Given the way in which the motions have been tabled, there is no possibility of debate, merely a possibility of votes. I repeat what I have already said: if Members so choose, the House can divide on these issues.

25 Jun 2009 : Column 1020

Business without Debate

south west regional grand committee

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No.117A(3)),

The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 105.
Division No. 158]
[4.16 pm


Anderson, Mr. David
Atkins, Charlotte
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Cairns, David
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Grogan, Mr. John
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Healey, rh John
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Jackson, Glenda
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mann, John
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
Merron, Gillian
Moffatt, Laura
Morden, Jessica
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Olner, Mr. Bill
Pearson, Ian
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Robertson, John
Ruane, Chris
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Sheridan, Jim
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, David
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen

Twigg, Derek
Walley, Joan
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Tami and
Mr. Dave Watts

Afriyie, Adam
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bone, Mr. Peter
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Evennett, Mr. David
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Alistair Burt and
Mr. Rob Wilson
Question accordingly agreed to.
Next Section Index Home Page