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The old law was extremely confusing. The idea that, in some circumstances, possibly-it was never entirely clear-a principal agent relationship needed to be established before a bribery offence could be proven always seemed entirely unjustified to people in the field. In fact, that is why there were many cases in which it was stated that that relationship was not required. The
Bill makes it entirely clear that the old law relating to principal and agent has gone, whatever doubts there might have been about it, and that new, clear definitions of bribery have now been included in the law.
That is the first good thing that the Bill does. The second is to introduce an offence of bribing a foreign official, which this country-unlike many others around the world-has hitherto lacked. The provision is drafted in such a way as to make it clear that it is the standards of this country that count. Under the terms of the Bill, it will not be possible to say that we can bribe people because it is okay to do so in another culture. That will not be allowed. The standards that will apply are not vague cultural standards; they will be the written law of another state. There was some debate in Committee about whether businesses would be able to follow this part of the Bill, but I am sure that they will be able to do so. It will be their responsibility to ensure that they are complying with the law of the other state, with whose public officials they are dealing.
I very much welcome the Bill. In some of the debates, I was dismayed by the stance being taken by businesses. I understand their worries, but, in the interests of the reputation of this country and of British business, it would not be right-or even profitable-to question this country's position on the fight against bribery. In the relationship between the next Government, whoever they are, and business, I hope that the people in power will make it absolutely clear to business that its position will not be tolerated if it is likely to undermine the provisions of the Bill, which I am glad to support.
Mr. William Cash (Stone): I strongly support the Bill, but I would like to make one point that relates to a Bill that I introduced a couple of years ago: the International Development (Anti-corruption Audit) Bill. I speak as the chairman of several all-party groups on matters relating to the third world and developing nations, including Uganda and Kenya, and to the sanitation of water. At that time, I had a lot of discussions with people from the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and the Department for International Development. It emerged that there was a problem elsewhere in the world, and I know that this Bill addresses that problem, as does the OECD report.
I wonder, however, whether there will be sufficient sanctions in place for those who engage in bribery and corruption in third-world countries and elsewhere. This is not just a problem for the third world; it is found in the European Union and all other parts of the world. I am worried about what might happen if we do not have a sufficient degree of sanction in relation to the aid that we give, in terms of any restrictions that might be imposed after a warning has been given. If a Government have been given an opportunity to correct their behaviour and they simply do not do so, we might be left with a problem.
We can deal with this issue as a matter of domestic law here in the UK, and I know that the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and other organisations have been engaged in consultations with the Minister about how the guidance will operate. These problems will, however, have a serious impact, because so much of this goes on in those countries where the aid money does not reach the people who really need it. At that level, it is essential that the provisions in the Bill relate to what goes on in the countries concerned. If we cannot stop the corruption happening there by using our powers under the International Development Act 2002-which could be amended-I do not think that we will be able to solve the problem.
Perhaps it will never be possible for the whole problem of bribery and corruption to be solved; it has been going on since the world began. The fact is, however, that the Bill does not go quite far enough in tackling the inability of those people to receive the money that is intended for their benefit. The other side of the coin is the necessity to stimulate self-help and enterprise, thereby building up the economies of those countries.
I have had discussions with the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) and others who deal with those countries that are prone to bribery and corruption as a way of life. I have also discussed these matters with Transparency International, and with the Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre, and I have no doubt that they have what the House of Commons Library note describes as
"impressive anti-bribery strategies on their websites",
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): There are only three clauses to this small Bill, and clause 1 contains the key provisions. Subsection (3) amends section 47 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to enable the Northern Ireland Assembly to delegate the determination of salaries and allowances to an outside body. That is expressly forbidden by the current legislation. The Speaker of the Assembly has confirmed that, after Royal Assent, legislation will be introduced in the Assembly and a new system put in place for setting allowances and salaries after the next Assembly elections in May 2011.
Subsection (5) reflects amendments made in another place and ensures that, if a Member of the Assembly receives a salary as a Member of Parliament or as a Member of the European Parliament, they will not receive any salary as a Member of the Assembly. This is seen as a step along the road to ending dual mandates in Northern Ireland. The other subsections in clause 1 are largely technical and consequential, and I hope that the whole House will continue to give the Bill the support that it gave on Second Reading.
Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): We welcome the Bill. We have had various discussions on clause 1, which, as the Minister says, contains most of the meat of the Bill. We welcome the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly is to gain the competence to set up a body for the independent setting of salaries and allowances. This will bring it more into line with what happens in Scotland and Wales.
We are also pleased that the Government met us halfway on the second part of the Bill, which deals with preventing anyone who is a parliamentarian elsewhere from receiving a full salary in the Assembly. It is important to move towards the end of double-jobbing, and we feel that it would be better to achieve that through consensus.
We have three basic objections. The money side of the matter, which the Bill addresses, is perhaps the least important, but it is none the less an important matter. There is also the question of whether people who are elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly can spend sufficient time in this place, as the work here becomes more onerous by the day. I am sure that it does in the Assembly as well, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to be in two places at once.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con):
Does my hon. Friend concede that in the context of devolution in the United Kingdom, it is inevitable and necessary to have people who are representative of both the devolved Assembly,
particularly with its enhanced powers and responsibilities, and of this House? Does he accept that it would not be inconsistent-in principle, at any rate, and I am not speaking for anybody else-to say that if people are doing two jobs, which is always more onerous, and doing them efficiently, there is something odd about not giving them the status of being paid for both jobs, even if it is something less than they might have expected?
Mr. Robertson: I understand my hon. Friend's point. As I say, the money side is probably not the issue that concerns us most of all. Over the last few years, the Minister and I have worked together on many Committees, not only on primary legislation but on Statutory Instrument Committees upstairs, and sometimes they have clashed with meetings of the Assembly. I think that 15 of the 17 Northern Ireland Members of Parliament also sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has meant that they have not always been able to be present in Committee. I found that particularly difficult. The people with experience of and real expertise about life in Northern Ireland are the people who live there, but if they are in the Assembly and cannot physically get to Westminster, it creates a difficulty, about which we are concerned.
There is a further point about what has come to be called double-jobbing. There is potential for a conflict of interest. Is it right for people to sit in this House and make rules and regulations for the running of the Northern Ireland Assembly if they actually sit in that Assembly?
We support the Bill as far as it goes, but we would have preferred it to go a little further in certain respects. We recognise that parliamentary time has become extremely short and that the Government see this as a small, but important, Bill. As such, we are happy to support it.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I do not intend to detain the House for long. As far as the provisions on the regulation of expenses for the Assembly are concerned, there has never been any contention among the parties. In that respect, clause 1 is wholly unremarkable.
In common with the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson), I would have preferred the provisions on double-jobbing to have gone a little further. It is a mark of the maturity of devolution in Northern Ireland, as well as in Wales and Scotland, that we can now countenance that. It is an issue that we should approach with rather greater confidence than we have apparently done. That said, the compromise we have achieved-compromise in the sense that everybody gets what nobody wants-is a workable staging post that should accelerate the withering on the vine of double-jobbing
Mr. Cash: On what the hon. Gentleman described rather pejoratively as double-jobbing, and in the context of the constitutional arrangements between ourselves and the Assemblies he mentioned, I am sure that he recognises that if we are to have anything other than complete independence, some functions will overlap-foreign policy, defence and so forth. It is all part of a continuous process and integrated involvement, so it is not double-jobbing: it is one job, which is to represent people in each of those places. Does he agree that that is not double-jobbing, but doing the job properly?
Mr. Carmichael: I fear that the hon. Gentleman has perhaps never quite come to terms with the full implications of the devolutionary settlement. It is double-jobbing because there are two jobs. There is overlap between statutory functions, and speaking as a Scottish Member here since 2001, I am intimately acquainted with those areas. Energy policy provides a good example of where there is a substantial overlap. The way to address those areas is through meaningful and effective co-operation between MPs, MEPs, MLAs, MSPs and so forth. We should not and cannot address the overlap by having people in more than one place at the same time. When important business is to be considered here, but equally important, albeit different, business is to be considered in Belfast, Cardiff or Edinburgh, that overlap simply cannot be addressed, irrespective of the amount of good will or effective joint working. In setting up a devolved Assembly, as this House has done, we have to accept that, although the work previously done by one person is now being done by two, it is no longer one job, but two jobs.
In that regard, I entirely endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Tewkesbury, whose analysis is to be commended. At risk of breaking the consensus that has been the hallmark of these proceedings, I merely observe in passing that I wish that his analysis was shared by his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, two of whom, for reasons unknown to me, appear to be determined to continue double-jobbing if they are successful in being re-elected to this House. Occasionally, with double-jobbing, there come double standards.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): I want to touch on the two points referred to by the Minister. Setting up a body to determine Assembly Members' pay and expenses would not have required the Sewel convention, because the Assembly has been crying out for permission to have a body carry out that work. It will have the support of all the parties in the Assembly as it moves forward. Indeed, they are waiting for this legislation to enable them to proceed with their own legislation. I believe that this will be widely supported not just in the Assembly, but in Northern Ireland as a whole.
I wish we were dealing with a Bill that took on the issue of double-jobbing. There is a lot of double-speak on this issue when it is suggested that if we have a job outside the House of Commons, whether it be at the Bar, a directorship or whatever, it amounts to great experience. I recall the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) speaking to the Ulster Unionist conference and railing against double-jobbing. I decided to go on the internet to check what double-jobbing he might have been involved in. My computer printer ran out of paper before I could get to the end of the list, yet he was lecturing the people of Northern Ireland on why they should end double-jobbing. This is not double-jobbing, but simply attempting to stop dual mandates.
The House needs some understanding of why there was such a significant occurrence of dual mandates in respect of Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly. It was the view of all parties in Northern Ireland-at least those who could get Members elected to this House-that the experience of Members who had been in the House of Commons was worthwhile in order to
ensure that the Assembly had the very best chance of succeeding. They wanted such experience to train-I do not use the term pejoratively-Members coming in to that level of elected service for the first time. It necessarily arose because people wanted to use such experience to ensure that the Assembly's life would not be a short one and that its business could be carried out in the best of fashions.
Secondly, some who might have had the Assembly as their first option-there were a number of them-had some doubt about the length of the Assembly's life. It was a bold move to set up the Assembly under those circumstances, when there was no certainty as to whether it would continue. Many Members thus wanted to hold on to their two positions until there was greater certainty. Those were the two reasons for the introduction of dual mandates, which was done with the best of motives.
As is made clear in the Library's research paper on the Bill, we intended to phase out dual mandates by the end of the next Parliament, but to do so gradually and progressively. The first step would be to remove Members of Parliament with chairmanships and ministerial roles-with only two exceptions-so that they would be able to attend Committees and participate in other House of Commons work, as the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) suggested that they should. We always intended-before this became a public issue-to reduce the number of candidates standing for both positions as soon as the Westminster and Assembly elections came around. We have done that, and we wait for other parties to follow our lead. I believe in a system of "one man"-or woman-"one job", so that people can concentrate on every aspect of the work to be done either in this place or in the Assembly.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Before this became an election issue, or an issue in general, did not a number of my right hon. Friend's colleagues indicate their desire to remain in the House of Commons if re-elected, doing one job?
Mr. Robinson: Yes. A number of my colleagues made it clear to me that they did not intend to stand for the Assembly again. There are others whose constituency associations have persuaded them to stand for election to Westminster, and who will stand down from the Assembly. They would choose otherwise, but they are responding to the calls of their associations rather than their own desires.
Clause 1 takes us closer to "one person, one job", and I think that that is right. As for the finances, I do not believe that any of the Members of Parliament who attended the Assembly did so for any financial reason. They always received a considerably reduced amount in any case: I think it was a third of the salary that they would otherwise have received, and after tax deductions and donations to the party, there was nothing left for anyone else. It was never a matter of finance. I cannot see what else it is a matter of in the Bill.
Although the Bill does not tackle the actual issue of dual mandates, any sensible politician is bound to decide in due course that single mandates are best. My colleagues and I support the Bill without difficulty and without reluctance.
I am concerned about a constitutional question that I have raised before. We will reach a certain point in the devolution process, one that is coming closer in Scotland. We know what the leader of the Scottish National party is saying about independence, and we know that elements of the Welsh Assembly may feel the same. What the right hon. Gentleman said crystallised the process that is evolving. If the dual mandate is removed, which would lead to what he correctly described as "one person for one job", we must start thinking about the concept of one Assembly for one nation.
That is at the heart of this question. Although there are functions that are reserved, in Scotland and, in this instance, in Northern Ireland, it is becoming difficult to avoid a movement towards complete devolution, which many people would find disagreeable and others would encourage. Movement in that direction is pretty momentous, particularly in the context of Northern Ireland. I have no real knowledge of what the people of Ireland-and those of Northern Ireland in particular-think about it. However, there was a time when we heard the expression "full-hearted consent". Then came the Anglo-Irish agreement, followed by other movements towards greater devolution. A momentous and historic decision has just been made on the devolution of criminal justice, security and the police.
The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I sense that we are moving away from the heart of this debate. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that we are debating whether clause 1 should stand part of the Bill.
We are moving into a constitutional dimension that needs to be watched with great care. It is possible that at some point in the reasonably near future it will become clear that the issue of what is described as double-jobbing on one hand and as a dual mandate on the other will not go away, and that it has profound implications for the direction in which the devolution process continues to evolve.
I think that people appreciate that, given the uncertainties involved in the process on which we embarked with the Good Friday agreement, it was justifiable and appropriate for members of parties to hold mandates in respect of both the Assembly and the House of Commons. Key issues of process were being played out in both places, and there is still some way to go. However, now that the process has become more settled and the institutions of the Good Friday agreement have become well and truly embedded, the public increasingly want their elected representatives to concentrate, in a committed way, on clear mandates and clear roles.
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