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its functions under...section 3(3)...(preparing and revising MPs allowances scheme)...section 5 (preparing and revising MPs financial interests rules),
I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green)or, indeed, any other hon. Membermight be interested in that provision, in relation to the question of the entry by the police into this House, on which I have spoken on many occasions. I have also got into some severe altercations about that with the Attorney-General, who alleges that it is for the courts to decide such matters, not the House of Commons. You will forgive me, Mrs. Heal, if I make it abundantly clear that I still totally and utterly repudiate the reasoning in her memorandum. I believe that that was the first occasion on which a memorandum from the Attorney-General was placed in the Library, at my insistenceand, to give her credit, the Leader of the House agreed to ensure that it was put there.
The issues are profound, because they relate to article IX of the Bill of Rights, in respect of which I have tabled a new clause, which I am glad to see that you have selected for debate tomorrow, Mrs. Heal. I therefore do not need to go into that in detail now, but I do need to go into the supremacy of Parliament, which relates to new clause 7. New clauses 7 and 8 deal with the supremacy of Parliament and article IX of the Bill of Rights, which relates to the internal regulation of the proceedings of this House by this House. That is where the Bill gets into deep trouble. I shall not go into that now, although not because it is out of orderit is notbut because I prefer to reserve my arguments for the new clauses tomorrow, on which I shall have a certain amount to say.
Mr. Cash: Indeed, although my hon. Friend might well be warned as well, because whereas those matters can be taken with jocularity in certain circumstances, they can lead to arrest of the kind that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was under, and many other matters, which I will deal with when we come to those new clauses tomorrow.
Mr. Cash: Indeed. I am glad to be able to say that, in Committee, it is appropriate for us to go into these matters. If my hon. Friend believes that we can deal with the whole history of the House and its power to determine its own internal proceedings simply by referring to a few jottings on the back of an envelope, I am afraid that he has a lesson or two to learn.
Mr. Redwood: To return to my hon. Friends point about clause 1, he drew our attention to the fact that IPSA will be both a regulatory body and an administrative body. Does he foresee any difficulty with that, given that its regulatory functions will primarily involve its regulating its own administrative functions? Is not that a rather unusual arrangement?
Mr. Cash: Perhaps the provision is set out in this way so that, as far as possible, the functions can be treated separately. This is typical of any hybrid arrangement, however; one is never quite sure which is the tail and which is the head. I am afraid that that is exactly where we are on this matter.
Clause 8 contains a whole stack of provisions relating to directions and recommendations. One of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the Billin addition to the length of time that we have in which to discuss itis the impact that it will have on our ability to run our own affairs and the extent to which that will be taken away from us. I said this to the Prime Minister when he came to talk about so-called constitutional renewal and reform. He raised the manner in which we were going to deal with matters of this kind. I pointed out to him that he had just returned from the beaches in Normandy, where people had fought and diedas my own father didso that we could maintain our democracy in this House. I said that they had not fought and died in Normandy to achieve what the Government now seem to want and what the Attorney-General stated in her memorandum that she wantednamely, that the proceedings and privileges of this House, which are derived from the people exercising their freedom of choice and voting for us by putting a simple cross on a ballot, should be taken away and given to the judicial supremacy of the courts either in this country or in Strasbourg or Luxembourg. That matter remains on the agenda, and I shall return to it tomorrow when we discuss the new clauses.
We need an overarching way of saving the rights of this House, on behalf of the electorate who vote for us. It is their Parliament, not ours. I do not believe that it is the Governments Parliament either, and they have not the slightest right to take away from the people of this country the right to govern themselves.
Mr. Straw: The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) and a number of other right hon. and hon. Members asked about the name of the new authority. It will be called the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, but it is a rose by any other name, and it is certainly a very fine rose. As I said yesterday, the other place might well wish to latch on to these arrangements, and it seemed to us that the body ought to have a fairly generic title.
I pointed out yesterday that most of the contents of the code of conduct and guidance are concerned with financial interests, as are the central parts of the Bill. We spent a lot of time arguing about the name for the new body, but the proposed title certainly seemed to be acceptable to our party leaders. The word independent was added as a result of our cross-party talks, to emphasise that it will be independent of Parliament. We all know why we are here, and why we are having to go through this process. It is rather less a result of some serious abuses of the allowance system by one or two individuals, and more to do with a failure of the system, which we allowed to develop and for which we are all responsible.
I will, of course, reflect on what the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) said. I have already made it clear from outside the House that we are ready to accept a number of amendments. Where I am in doubt, I will listen to the arguments, but I can tell the House now that we will certainly accept a number of amendments tabled in the names of the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell)and some others.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Was there any discussion this morning about moving a Government motion to amend the programme motion to enable us to spend as much time as we want this evening by removing the 10 oclock limit? There was a statement and an enormous number of amendments were added only yesterday, so did the Government consider that option?
Mr. Straw: There were discussions, but in the event, it was judged appropriate to keep within the time scale. From my perspective, we are seeking to proceed by consensus and to make as much progress as we can. I also remind the Committee about the judgments made less than three weeks ago across the parties
Mr. Straw: It may have been the Front Benchers, as the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) says, but that is the way we work within the parties and it is how the system operates. There was a general agreementI am not saying it was universalthat we needed to make swift progress, so I hope that that answers the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who criticises us on account of the speed of the process. I wish that many things had not happened; I wish that the scheme commended by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House almost this time last year had been voted on and approved by the House. Many Members in their places today did vote for it, as did I; others did not, and I think that their repentance has been very painful and that the whole House and its reputation has suffered from it. Expenses are not dominating the news today, but they were for six weeks, and they undermined the reputation of this House, so it is crucialin my judgment and, I think, that of the House as a wholethat we act swiftly.
The budgets have yet to be drawn up, but they will be. Our judgment is that the total cost of this scheme and what will be administerednamely, the content of the allowance schemewill not be more than current costs. Indeed, it may well be less in some respects, as any new system is likely to be simpler than the one it replaces.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I do not demur from what the right hon. Gentleman says about a general consensus emerging a few weeks ago among party leaders and others about having an arms-length body to deal with financial aspects, allowances and so forth. All that is to the good. What was not agreedand is not agreedis the idea of bringing in a statutory code of conduct and, worse still, impinging on our rights and, even more importantly, the rights of our constituents as within the Bill of Rights. At that stage, nobody foresaw the attack on the basic freedoms of our constituents and on our basic freedoms, including, crucially, our freedom of speech.
The issue particularly exercising the Clerk and Members was clause 6, which I have dealt with. [Interruption.] Well, we can deal with that when we come to clause 10. As I recall, it is the nationalist parties that were keen to ensure that offences were written directly into the Bill, so there is the consequent issue about how to adduce evidence.
Sir Patrick Cormack: The Lord Chancellor knows very well that I endorse all that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) said a moment ago, and we rehearsed much of this yesterday. What will happen if Sir Christopher Kelly, who is being constrained, trammelled and confined
Sir Patrick Cormack: That, too. What happens if Sir Christopher and his committee decide that they do not want to take this approach? Given that the Government have said that they will accept the committees report, what will happen?
Mr. Straw: As I explained yesterday, the Kelly committee is dealing with the content of the allowance system[Hon. Members: No.] With great respect, that is the central part of what it is doing. It is looking at the whole system of allowances and what its content should be. This Bill is about how any system of allowances should be administered and about setting up a register of financial interests outside the House that should take over certain functions of the Fees Office and the registrar and some aspects of the investigations that are currently undertaken by the commissioner here. The outside body would also make judgments in cases of abuse. All of those follow, as night follows day, from the acceptance on both sides of the House that we should have an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): I must correct the Justice Secretary. He just said that the Kelly inquiry is only conducting a review of the narrow issue of the content of the allowances, but on 23 March the Prime Minister wrote to Sir Christopher referring to
the opportunity to consider the full picture.
There is no constraint there. The Prime Minister explicitly asked the committee to consider everything. Therefore, it is entirely wrong that through this Bill we are pre-empting and constraining a committee that was set up to consider what the Prime Minister calls the full picture.
Mr. Straw: I do not accept that. We are not pre-empting what Sir Christopher Kelly is doing. The fact of the Kelly inquiry was well known to all three party leaders. For these purposes, I am not putting words into the mouths of the leaders of the nationalist parties, but the three main party leaders are on the record as welcoming the establishment of an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, notwithstanding and in the full knowledge that the Kelly inquiry was under way. That is the truth
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): Why, then, when I and several colleagues went to see Sir Christopher Kelly, did he specifically ask us what our thoughts were about external regulation? Why did he welcome me writing him a supplementary letter about external regulation that addressed all these issues? Was he acting outside his remit?
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman will have to ask Sir Christopher Kelly why he asked those questions. It would be impertinent of me to suggest a reason, and such matters are for a chairman of an inquiry to determine. I provide this reassurance, not least to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and the hon. Member for South Staffordshire, that if there were to bealthough I do not anticipate this for a momentaspects of Sir Christopher Kellys proposals that the House wished to accept, but they were wholly inconsistent or incompatible with the legislation, we would have to amend the legislation[Hon. Members: Ah!] I am trying to be helpful by saying that that is what we would have to do. There will almost certainly be a vehicle to enable that to happen.
The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) cannot have it both ways. He has complained that this Bill is being treated as urgent, but it is urgent. With urgent legislation it is usual to sayas I did this time last year about anonymised evidencethat the House will have a chance to consider it again at a time of less urgency. The impending general election will take place by next June, so I do not make that explicit promise, but I do make the explicit promise that if there are aspects of the recommendations from Sir Christopher that the House wishes to implement, but cannot because of this legislationa very distant prospectwe will have to amend the legislation. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stone asks why it cannot be done now. I am not clairvoyant, and that would require me to anticipate Sir Christopher Kellys recommendations.
As always, I listened with great care to the speech of the hon. Member for Stone. I thought for a moment that I would be able to record the fact that it was the first speech that I had heard him make in the House for many years in which he did not mention Europe. However, it followed a consistent pattern. Wherever the hon. Gentlemans speeches start, they end with Europe.
Mr. Jenkin: The purpose of the amendment is simply to ask the promoter of the Bill what the judge, or ex-judge, who is appointed to IPSA will be for, and whether we are appointing him to the right role.
In principle, I have always been in favour of there being someone with juridical experience to help to adjudicate matters of fact, evidence and the interpretation of rules when enforcing those rules on Members of Parliament and dealing with complaints. That is lacking from our present arrangements. However, I fail to understand why it is a good thing to make the judge a member of IPSA. If he were acting purely for the House and independently of potential judicial review, he would be contributing something very positive, but he will be acting as a de facto legal adviser to IPSA in respect of any judicial review of its activities and functions of regulation and enforcement. I propose in other amendments that the construction of the Bill should be insulated from judicial review. I will not refer to them now, but they effectively propose that all proceedings of IPSA and the commissioner should be regarded as proceedings in Parliament under article 9 of the Bill of Rights so that they are themselves privileged and whatever they deal with within Parliament is not therefore subject to adjudication and review by the courts.
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