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Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

Question agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


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Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority

7.15 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Barbara Keeley): I beg to move,

Mr. Speaker, this motion, tabled in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, has been brought forward at your request. It sets out the nominees for membership of the new Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliament Standards Authority. It will follow similar lines to the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, and its composition and functions are defined in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the Deputy Leader of the House, but this is an important matter. There might be a debate on it after the Minister has spoken, so it would be appreciated if hon. Members who do not want to take part in it could please leave the Chamber quickly and quietly.

Barbara Keeley: As I was saying, the Committee's composition and functions are defined in the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

There are five nominees who will sit alongside three ex officio members. The first of the ex officio members is you, Mr. Speaker. The others are my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House of Commons and the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) in his new capacity as Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee. At your request, Mr. Speaker, the three Front Benches have put forward names, and I therefore see no reason why those names should not be acceptable to all sides of the House.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Barbara Keeley: No. My comments will be very brief, and there will be opportunities-

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Will the Minister give way?

Barbara Keeley: No, I will not give way at the moment.

The Parliamentary Standards Act gives the Speaker's Committee two functions: to ratify the nomination of the Parliamentary Standards Authority chair and board members before they are put before the House, and to approve the estimate for the Parliamentary Standards Authority-in other words, its funding.

The motion asks the House to appoint the remaining five members of the Committee. On behalf of the Government, and I hope the whole House, I commend it to the House.

7.17 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I want to add a brief footnote to what we have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the House, and to
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speak in favour of the motion. It appeared rather suddenly on today's Order Paper, but I hope that it is non-controversial.

We on this side of the House support the creation of a Speaker's Committee on IPSA, in accordance with the Act that was passed in July, with my party's support. We supported the Act because we strongly believe that MPs should no longer be placed in a situation where they determine their own allowances. We now look forward to the report from Sir Christopher Kelly to provide a blueprint for IPSA to work from. The leak of some its recommendations is extremely regrettable.

The Parliamentary Standards Act specifies the membership of the Speaker's Committee and the names now appear on the Order Paper. I welcome those names, and I look forward to working with them.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that I should not put this question to you, but I shall put it to my right hon. Friend. Does he think that the Committee is broadly enough based, and that it reflects the views of relatively new and young Members of the House? Their future is important to the House, and to the Government of the country, so should not the Committee be slightly more representative of the House as a whole, rather than of the great and the good?

Sir George Young: I imagine that, if my hon. Friend felt that the names before the House were not appropriate, he could have tabled an amendment proposing alternatives more in keeping with his views. Speaking for myself, I find the names on the Order Paper perfectly acceptable. I declare an interest, and I look forward to working with the people proposed in the motion.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): How can the right hon. Gentleman expect the public to have confidence in a so-called independent Committee that is made up of the usual suspects who have so patently failed to carry public confidence with them over the years? They also failed to accept the reforming suggestions to sort out the allowances contained in the early-day motion tabled two years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Davies) and myself.

Sir George Young: The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that IPSA is independent. All we are doing this evening is appointing a Committee to oversee the appointment of the chairman and the members of the committee. If the hon. Gentleman wants an assurance that IPSA will be independent, I hope that he got that in the debate that we had in July when IPSA was set up-an organisation for which I think he voted in the Lobby.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): My right hon. Friend repeated what the Deputy Leader of the House said about the limited role of the Committee, but does he not see that it would also have a role under section 5(4)(d) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, which provides that

for MPs' allowances-

Is that not the same Committee that we are discussing this evening?

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Sir George Young: Yes, but if my hon. Friend looks at that list, he will see that it is a very comprehensive list indeed, including Members of the House of Commons. I cannot think of a more embracing category than that. The fact that IPSA will also consult the Committee that is being constituted this evening is in no way exclusive and does not preclude other Members from giving their views.

It is up to you, Mr. Speaker, to nominate both the membership of the board of IPSA and the Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations-

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir George Young: May I make a little progress?

It is up to the Speaker's Committee to discuss and agree on those nominations. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us where we have got to with the nominations that will come before the Committee, in particular the nominations for the Chairman. It would be helpful if she could shed some light on the time scale.

The Committee will also have an audit function, reviewing the Government's estimate and satisfying itself that the allocated funds are not at odds with the need for IPSA to be a cost-effective body. Of course, IPSA needs the resources to do the job that Parliament has asked it to do, but at a time of constraint on public expenditure, it must be efficient and cost-effective, not least where the salaries are concerned. During the Committee stage of the Bill, the Justice Secretary said that the Government had considered the experience of the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission. We hope that they paid particular attention to the controversy over the remuneration of those appointees. Some figures have been bandied about, and we should note that the House will take a keen interest in these matters.

Finally, the debate gives us an opportunity to ask the Deputy Leader of the House what progress has been made on establishing IPSA. When do the Government imagine that IPSA will be operational? Is it envisaged that it will start at the beginning of the new Parliament, or on a fixed date such as the beginning of the financial year? What arrangements have been made on staffing, in particular with respect to those currently employed in the Department of Resources? She will know that there is deep concern in that Department about their futures. If she was able to shed any delight in her concluding remarks, those who work in the Department of Resources may find that reassuring.

7.22 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): As the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said, the appointment of the Committee is part of the process that all sides of the House agreed by means of the Act setting up IPSA. The Committee will advise you, Mr. Speaker, in the appointments that you make, and it will deal with consultations, as has already been suggested, and with audit of the IPSA functions, when they are in place.

It is essential that we get IPSA in place because we cannot effect the long-term reform of the system of allowances and expenses until it is in place. A great deal of publicity has, quite reasonably, been given to Sir Christopher Kelly's report, which was leaked. I agree
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about how unfortunate it is that the report was partially leaked. Partial information is the worst sort of information, because it makes people assume all sorts of things which may not be justified once they see the narrative and the text in the round. The Kelly report on its own is not a proposal for the regulation of the House. It is a proposal for the framework that IPSA will then set up, so IPSA's role is crucial.

I agree absolutely with the right hon. Gentleman when he asks what the timetable is expected to be. The Members who are being asked to sit on the Committee will have their work cut out if we are to see a Chairman and a board in place in a reasonable time scale that will enable them to do the work that is set out in statute. I have my doubts whether the timetable will be such as to see real and effective change before the expiry of this Parliament. That means that we may find ourselves in difficulties with either a dying Parliament in its last days setting up structures that will then not apply to it, or a new Parliament without experience having to grapple with this as the first matter on its agenda. There is concern about the time scale and any advice that the Deputy Leader of the House can give would be extremely helpful.

The other point that the right hon. Gentleman rightly made and that I shall repeat concerns the audit function of this body in terms of the total package of costs for the organisation, but also more specifically the remuneration of board members, for instance. As an example to everybody else we need total transparency, and it is important that we and the public outside know exactly what considerations are being taken into account in setting up the new body, how it is to be set up, what remuneration levels will be, what funding levels will be, and how those funding levels will be justified. I look to the Committee when it is set up to ensure that transparency.

Members' interventions have suggested a certain familiarity with some of the names that have been put forward, and it is hard to argue with the fact that they are rather familiar names. I suspect that the argument for that is continuity from what has existed before. At some stage we need to make a break, and there is some justification for saying that. But this Committee will have a limited lifetime. It will exist only until the end of the Parliament. It has a very limited framework of work. The motion plainly says

So this membership is for a limited time and we need to look afresh in a new Parliament as to who are the right Members, how they will represent all parts of the House-both in terms of party political representation and their experience in the House-and at their outlook and what they can bring to this. We should look at that carefully immediately following a general election.

I will certainly support the proposal in order to get the body up and running and doing its work, because there is some urgency. I hope, however, that the Deputy Leader of the House will hear in what I have said at least some caveats for the future, which I hope we will be able to take into account.

7.28 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I shall be brief. However, I am not at all happy with the way in which we are going about matters. I would not dream of
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saying a word against any of the Members who are mentioned on the Order Paper-not my hon. Friends of course, and not the other Members either. But that does not alter the fact that we are starting afresh. The reputation and integrity of the House has been much damaged. There is no doubt about it. You nod your agreement, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that we would all agree that there is a need to restore public confidence as quickly as possible.

The new body that has been set up-the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority-is a move in the right direction, but when it comes to the names, inevitably the question will arise: why these people? Who nominated them? Do I take it that they have been nominated in the usual way by the Whips, and accordingly they are before us for approval? It is in no way to criticise those hon. Members when I say that I would be far happier if there was some sort of system whereby we could elect the Members involved, embracing, of course, the three political parties. I see no reason why not. You are in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, because you have been elected to the Chair, and it is your policy, as you have told the House, that the Deputy Speakers be elected. That is the right move, so, when it comes to what we agree is a fresh start to try to restore public confidence in allowances, expenses and all the rest of it, why do we have these names on the Order Paper? We have not been consulted. No one has consulted me, and if they have not consulted me, presumably no one else has been consulted apart from the usual channels. However, we are now expected to nod our approval.

I shall not cause a Division over the matter, but I shall be very surprised if I am the only Member to hold this view. It is only right and proper to state clearly that, if we are to appoint such people, they should be subject to an internal election, which would give the matter far more legitimacy. It is for those reasons that I have made this brief speech.

7.31 pm

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I am hugely impressed by the names that have been put forward for the Committee. It is a smorgasbord of big cheeses. However, I am concerned that there are not younger, thrusting and less experienced Members on it. I should not speak in my own cause, but I regard myself as young and thrusting; and I may raise this point light-heartedly, but I have a serious love for this place. The past two years have been traumatic for all Members, but the measures that Kelly and others have taken will impact on the next generation of young Members starting their parliamentary careers. I should very much like to champion their cause and colleagues' causes, and I should like to bring an innovative approach-a new approach-to the Committee. I have not sought high office in this place, and I shall never get high office, but that is not a shame, because I love and take pride in being a Back Bencher, and Back Benchers are important to this place and to our constitutional settlement.

Mr. Speaker, I shall not try your patience, but let me give you one example of the innovative thinking that I would bring to the role. Let us do away with paperwork and forms; let us take the personal additional accommodation expenditure allowance and make it
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subject to income tax at a Members' higher rate. Then, of course, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs would become the regulator of the scheme, the public would have confidence in it and we would be able to shed the civil servants who oversee the PAAE. Mr. Speaker, I see that you are about to rise, so I shall move on.

Mr. Speaker: To the Committee.

Mr. Walker: I shall move on and conclude with this plea. The Committee would certainly benefit from having a young, dynamic Member on it. That young, dynamic Member may not be me; it may be another Member. But it is not too late to add a name to the great list-the smorgasbord of big cheeses-in front of us. What harm could we do by looking at that?

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