Previous Section Index Home Page


28 Oct 2009 : Column 408

We have had this debate a number of times. I think it came up when we considered the nominations to the Parliamentary Reform Committee. I do not want to intrude on the Conservative party's obvious grief, but it is up to it to decide how it does this. It was open to it to have an election, and the hon. Member for Broxbourne could have put his name forward. That would have been fine. But it does not seem to have done that.

Some points were made about the great and the good, cheese, a smorgasbord and all kinds of other things. My hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman)-we will all have to get our heads around her constituency name-is no longer in her place, but she looked rather surprised to find herself so elevated, if being a smorgasbord or cheese is an elevation. This Committee is not exactly the same as previous Committees with similar functions, and I am sure that she will relish the task before all members of the Committee.

Mr. Winnick: I said earlier that I did not intend to press this matter to a Division, and I normally keep my word, so I shall not do so. However, may I press my hon. Friend? I am sure this was not her intention, but we should not dismiss the legitimacy of voting. It is very important. Obviously, she will not misunderstand me again when I say that this matter is not quite within her responsibility-it goes to a more senior level, as is bound to happen in government and the rest of it. I hope, therefore, that she will communicate with her senior colleagues on this matter. If it were put before the parliamentary Labour party, I believe that there would be a very strong case for this particular Committee to have the legitimacy of elections.

Barbara Keeley: Indeed. I am sure that all hon. Members' points about the method of nominating Members to Committees have been heard and will be taken into account. The Labour party held an election on the Parliamentary Reform Committee, and it will be open in the future to the hon. Member for Broxbourne and his hon. Friends to nominate him, to have an election and to go forward on that basis.

Mr. Walker: I am sure that there could be elections in the future. The point I was trying to make is that these Committees tend to be made up of establishment figures. The hon. Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman) is a former senior Government Whip. Newish Members never seem to get a look-in.

Barbara Keeley: That is a comment from the hon. Gentleman to his own Front-Bench colleagues, so I shall leave them to deal with it.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Lady is right-that was a comment to the hon. Gentleman's Front-Bench colleagues. However, this evening we have heard a degree of frustration that the same names crop up time and again on these so-called in-House Committees. There is a feeling that perhaps, sometimes, the advice of some of those Members has not been of the best quality.

Barbara Keeley: Those points have been aired well in this short debate, and I am sure that they will be taken on board. I do not know exactly how the process was gone through, but it might have been thought that, at this difficult and turbulent time-again, today, we find
28 Oct 2009 : Column 409
ourselves in such times-it was a fair idea to have people with experience of what has been happening and of the different schemes put together. However, I do not know, because I was not involved in the discussions.

Mr. Walker: The problem is that often it is people with experience who get us into a mess in the first place. That is a problem with which many of my in take-from 2005-on both sides of the House have to wrestle.

Barbara Keeley: I cannot help any further on that point. I am sure that all points have been made as well as possible.

Let me turn to some of the other questions that have been asked in this debate. If there are any points that I cannot answer this evening, I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will touch on them tomorrow or that we will be able to deal with them in the next few weeks.

I understand that the recruitment of the chair and members of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is expected soon. In fact, a substantial part of the reason for our urgency in moving this evening's motion is that we need the Committee to be on board with the functions that I touched on earlier, in order to ratify the nomination of the chair and board members before they are put to the House. The Speaker's Committee will be a key part of that process.

I was asked whether I could "shed any delight" on the timetable, which I thought was interesting for this time of day, although I assume that what was meant was "light". As far as I understand the progress on setting up the new authority, it has an interim chief executive, whom Mr. Speaker appointed. Tonight we are discussing the establishment of the Speaker's Committee, and very soon-once the Committee is convened-we would expect the board to be convened, also with its chair and members. All that work will go forward.

Mention was made of remuneration. I am aware of some discussion about that. Points were also made about transparency. The 2009 Act specifies that Mr. Speaker will determine the terms and conditions for the chair and ordinary members, who will later be appointed by Her Majesty, on an address to the House. I am sure that the points that have been made about transparency have been well received this evening.

Mr. Andrew Turner: Is the hon. Lady saying that members of the Committee are shortly to be appointed-in other words, that she knows who they are-or that she does not yet know who they are and neither does anyone else?

Barbara Keeley: The hon. Gentleman refers to members of the Committee, but the nominations for the Committee is what we are discussing this evening.

Mr. Turner: I am sorry, I meant the board.

Barbara Keeley: The answer is yes. Advertisements have been placed, so the process of recruiting the chair and board members is going ahead. That is very much the reason for the urgent need for the Committee to interact with the process.


28 Oct 2009 : Column 410

Some other points have been raised, about interaction with the Kelly report. We do not have the Kelly report, and I very much regret its leaking, as I am sure everyone else in the Chamber does. The leaking of matters to do with the House and MPs is despicable, but leaked it seems to have been. On interaction with Kelly, let me remind hon. Members that the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority's primary functions include determining and administering an allowances scheme, so clearly there needs to be some interaction with the Kelly report.

A key function of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is to prepare any scheme and to review and revise it as appropriate. In doing so, it must consult a wide range of people, as set out in the 2009 Act, including the Committee on Standards in Public Life, so there will be that interaction backwards and forwards.

Peter Bottomley: Could the Deputy Leader of the House confirm that we are talking about an independent body that will be supervised by the members of the Committee that we are discussing and that it would be open to them not to change, or indeed to change, any recommendations that Kelly makes?

Barbara Keeley: I think that the answer is yes. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is clearly an independent body-it has the word "independent" in its title. That is the key reason for moving to the new scheme and for our working so hard a couple of months ago to get the 2009 Act through. There will be consultation, but one of the new authority's key functions, as we recognised in setting it up, is to prepare, review and revise schemes of allowances.

Bob Spink: Does the hon. Lady think that the public will be greatly impressed by the word "independent" in the title, given that the chairman will be selected by the usual suspects from this House, who have patently failed the public in not controlling Members' allowances in the past?

Barbara Keeley: That is a matter of opinion, although I do not share the hon. Gentleman's view.

Mr. Chope: The Deputy Leader of the House has not yet told us when the board will start its work. I wonder whether she could tell us that and, at the same time, perhaps answer the question that I put earlier about whether there is any possibility of the Government ensuring that the Kelly report is published sooner. It is already at the printer's and could be published before this week is out.

Barbara Keeley: I do not think that it is our function this evening to discuss the Kelly report, but as I understand it, the report is due to be published next Wednesday. Its publication obviously involves outside printers, and there is a certain amount of work to be done. I have heard the points that have been raised this evening, but it is not a matter for this debate to do anything about that.

On the timetable, I have laid out that there has been substantial movement. We are recruiting the board of IPSA; that is going ahead after you placed the adverts, Mr. Speaker. The new Committee, if we agree it this evening, will be able to go forward. The timetable,
28 Oct 2009 : Column 411
however, is not exact because we cannot set out a timetable for a board that does not exist yet. It will exist fairly soon, however, and we shall be able to make progress from there. There is now also an interim chief executive.

A point was raised about staffing, and I understand the concerns that have been expressed by the staff of the House. I have met the unions representing all the staff of the House, and I know that there have been other meetings, and all their concerns are being taken on board. I think that that covers most of the questions.

Peter Bottomley: I am not sure who is advising the Leader of the House or the House authorities, but can we have an assurance-if not now, in a written statement later-that what would be required of an employer elsewhere in terms of the interests of the staff will be fulfilled here?

Barbara Keeley: I can do no more than say that I have been working on this, along with other people. An implementation team in the Ministry of Justice was working on setting up IPSA over the summer, and meetings and discussions have also been held with the trade unions. We had a lengthy meeting in which we discussed and noted all the concerns, but the difficulty that I have in dealing with them is that, until the board of the new authority is established, there is little that can be said about what it will do. It would not be right to hamper the setting up of the new authority or to constrain what it can do, but it will clearly move forward.

Mr. Chope: Is it the Minister's hope and desire that the board will be up and running before the end of this calendar year, so that it can deal with these important, urgent matters?

Barbara Keeley: All we can say on this is that everything will move as fast as it can. Given that we only debated this in the summer, the fact that we have worked across the summer and are now appointing the board and the Committee demonstrates that we have made very good progress.

I want to conclude now, as that would be fair to Members-

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): Will the Minister give way?

Barbara Keeley: I shall not take any more interventions.

On the matter of urgency, I do not feel that I need to come back to this matter. We moved the Bill through Parliament and decided to create the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority because it was the view of Members on both sides of the House, as the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) said, that it was no longer acceptable to the public that Members should set and pay their own allowances. That is a continual matter of urgency-

Bob Spink: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is still quite some time to run in this one-and-a-half-hour debate. Since the advertisements for the board and the chairman have already gone out, is it in order for the Minister not to inform the House of the salary levels that have been set for those posts?


28 Oct 2009 : Column 412

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is experienced enough a Member of the House to know perfectly well that that is not a point of order. What the Minister chooses to tell the House is a matter for the Minister. The hon. Gentleman has registered his views with his usual force and alacrity.

Peter Bottomley: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yes must be the House's response to what you have said. That might not be a point of order under this motion, but to make a point of order to the occupant of the Speaker's Chair about the salary of the chairman of the board is probably covered, because it is part of the arrangements for the salary of the chairman of IPSA, which is in the hands of the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Speaker: There is a statutory duty involved here, but questioning me on the matter in the way that the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) just attempted to do does not, in my judgment, constitute a point of order.

Barbara Keeley: I want to bring this to a conclusion now.

Mr. Pelling: Will the Minister give way?

Barbara Keeley: No, I have said that I am not accepting any more interventions. I have touched on the fact that the terms and conditions for the chair and ordinary members are by statute-yours, Mr. Speaker, to decide and determine, as you have done. Hon. Members have raised a number of points about that, and I am sure that they have been listened to.

The House is asked to appoint the remaining five members of this Committee. On behalf of the Government-and, I hope, the House-I commend this motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

Business without Debate

delegated legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


INCOME TAX

Question agreed to.

COMMITTEE ON ISSUE OF PRIVILEGE RELATING TO POLICE SEARCHES ON THE PARLIAMENTARY ESTATE AND INTERNAL PROCESSES OF THE HOUSE ADMINISTRATION FOR GRANTING PERMISSION FOR SUCH ACTION

Ordered,

regional select committee (west midlands)

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.

REGIONAL SELECT COMMITTEE (YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER)

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Next Section Index Home Page